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French Jews Sue L’oreal Cosmetics for Boycott Compliance and Bribery

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A $100 million civil action suit has been filed by two French brothers against L’Oreal, alleging that the world’s largest cosmetics manufacturer bribed Syrian authorities to get off the blacklist of companies that comply with the Arab boycott of Israel.

The suit, filed Feb. 2 in New York State Supreme Court by Jean and David Frydman, also charges fraud, saying the firm forged papers to remove Jean Frydman from L’Oreal’s board because he was a resident of Israel.

The suit was filed in New York because, the brothers say, New York State and U.S. anti-boycott law were violated by L’Oreal’s American licensee, Cosmair.

The Frydmans also recently filed a complaint against L’Oreal with the U.S. Office of Boycott Compliance in Washington. The New York suit is the latest leg in a convoluted saga that travels from Paris to Israel and the United States.

Cosmair issued a statement last week saying that the complaint “clearly misstates” the U.S. firm’s activities.

The firm said, “Cosmair, Inc. is a U.S. company operating exclusively on the American market” and “has no business interest in the Middle East.”

Moreover, it said, “Cosmair has a longstanding policy forbidding discrimination on any grounds including race, creed and nationality.”

And it denied ties to a deceased chief executive of L’Oreal who served prison time for war crimes.

HOPE AMERICAN COURT WILL PROVIDE JUSTICE

Will Maslow, who is editor of the Boycott Report published by the American Jewish Congress and who has been an adviser to the Frydman family, said, “We’re delighted that the suit has been brought and we hope that the American courts will provide the Frydman brothers with the justice that the French courts were unable to give them.”

Jean Frydman, who lives in Israel and also retains French citizenship, was a board member in France of L’Oreal and was also a longtime friend of L’Oreal Chairman Francois Dalle.

In 1990, the two entered into a separate business agreement to set up a film company called Paravision. Some of the funds for establishing the company were to be provided by L’Oreal.

It has been inferred, but never proven, that the Damascus-based Arab League Boycott office was incensed by this arragement with an Israeli, Frydman, and placed L’Oreal on the blacklist.

But a French lawyer who has perused documents regarding L’Oreal claimed that money changed hands to remove the company from the blacklist and gave written substantiation of a list of charges the Frydmans have made against the company.

Parts of a secret report prepared by the lawyer, David Ruzie, were leaked last month to the French and Israeli media. The Frydman brothers and Ruzie charge that L’Oreal made bribery payments to remove the firm from the blacklist and in 1988 closed an Israeli plant of the company Helena Rubinstein, which L’Oreal had acquired. The case in France went into arbitration but remained inconclusive.

Israel is pressing L’Oreal for a public apology.

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