Jean-Paul Guerlain fined for racist insults

A French court has convicted perfume maker Jean-Paul Guerlain of making racist insults on national television and fined him €6,000 (£5,000).

Guerlain, 75, an heir to his family's cosmetics empire, made the comments in a 2010 interview on France-2 television describing the creation of one of the company's most famed perfumes.

He said: "I worked like a nigger. I don't know if niggers have always worked like that, but anyway."

Several anti-racism groups filed legal complaints, and protests were staged in front of the Guerlain store on the Champs-Élysées. Some called for a boycott of Guerlain products.

Guerlain apologised to black people in France during the trial, calling it an "imbecilic" remark.

He was convicted in a Paris court. The judge did not sentence him to any prison time, though the charge could have carried a sentence of up to six months behind bars.

"I am from another generation," Guerlain said during the trial, so part of the remark was "a common expression at the time". He also said he did so during a TV interview because he "wanted to make the journalist laugh and I regret it".

"I was anything but racist," he said, standing before the court with the help of crutches.

Lawyers for the SOS Racism association said Guerlain abused the national platform he was given.

The cosmetics company distanced itself from Guerlain, who had retired at 65 but remained a consultant.

Guerlain is the great-great-grandson of the founder of the company, now owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

LVMH was embarrassed last year when designer John Galliano – who worked for LVMH subsidiary Christian Dior – was convicted of making anti-Semitic comments.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

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