Swiss news weekly L’Hebdo magazine’s 2 June edition features on its cover the murder trial of Cécile Brossard, accused of killing her lover, wealthy French banker Edouard Stern, in 2007. GenevaLunch, a partner of l’Hebdo, brings you the English version in two parts.
French version © 2009 l’Hebdo
English version © 2009 GenevaLunch (may not be reproduced in part or whole without written permission).
Part two: Edouard Stern, a man and a banker in too much of a hurry
28 February, Geneva: a brutal end, at age 50, to the life of Edouard Stern. Known as the enfant terrible of his bank who was headed for disaster at some point, he finally succeeded in achieving that. He was the offspring of a financial dynasty who, at the age of 22, found himself at the head of the family bank. He turned it into a gem, then sold it in 1988 to Société de Banque Suisse. He then joined his father-in-law, Michel David-Weill, at the centre of power of another high finance bank, Lazard. But his temperament didn’t sit well with the traditionalists. For Stern, business was something to be done quickly, without personal involvement.
He left Lazard, but bounced back by creating a financial company to manage his huge fortune. The same year, 28 February 1997, Stern Bank was declared bankrup and SBS wrote it off as a loss. Stern himself had already put his money elsewhere. He had settled in Geneva and put money into Rhodia, the chemical branch of French multinational Rhône-Poulenc. The relationship turned sour. In 2003 he brought charges against the company. His financial life began to pick up speed – until February 2005.
The trial – two old friends face off
Marc Bonnant, age 64, and Pascal Maurer, age 58, are old friends. Bonnant is one of the lawyers for the plaintiff, the Stern family, and Maurer is one of the lawyers, along with Alex Reymond, who is handling the defense for Cécile Brossard. Bonnant is known as a brilliant legal orator. He has defended Nessim Gaon, Licio Gelli as well as the family of financier Edmond Safra [GL editor's note: who died in a criminally set fire].
Maurer defended Sergueï Mikhaïlov, a Russian multimillionaire arrested in Switzerland in the 1990s for illegal immigration.
The defense will be pleading that Stern’s death was a crime of passion, with a maximum penalty of 10 years. They will try to show the cynical character of the banker, his cruelty in manipulating his lover and pushing her to the edge.
Bonnant will argue, for the plaintiff, that it was murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years. He will attempt to show Bossard as a manipulative woman who was fully in charge of the series of events.
Experienced observers are predicting six to 10 years in prison.
Timeline in the Stern murder case
by Sabine Pirolt
Born in 1969 in Contlans-Sainte-Honorine, 60 km from Paris. Cécile grew up in a lower middle class world, with a depressive mother and an exhibitionist father. She had no training when she launched herself into the professional word. Self-taught, she loved literature and art. She offered herself to several men in order to explore “the possibilities of their flesh.” Edouard Stern, with whom she fell in love, represented the source of her dreams. He traveled with her around the world.
20 March 1969
Cécile Brassard is born in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a small community in the Ile-de-France region in France, in the Yvelines. Her father is a public relations man, her mother works as a teacher in a school for the handicapped. They divorce when she is eight years old. She had a younger sister.
When she is 17 her mother places her in a psychiatric institution. Her aunt helps her get out. The young woman then enjoys a “normal” family life, with family meals, regular hours, adults who don’t talk about sex – unlike her father.
Thanks to a bank loan, she buys a house that is in ruins for 280,000 French francs (about CHF70,000) in Nanteuil-le-Haudouin, a village in the Oise departement in France. This house, where she paints, becomes a stable point of reference for this woman who spent her childhood with a depressive mother and a father who made love in front of his children.
In February, at a diner in Paris organized by gallery owner Albert Benamou at La Guinguette de Neuilly she sees Edouard Stern for the first time. He is the one to make an effort to see her again. They dine together, alone, at the end of April. She is married to a naturopathic doctor, a Frenchman who has settled in Clarens, Vaud. They were married in Las Vegas in 1998, but since 2000 they have not had marital relations.
She insists on more than words of love from Stern: she wants him to marry her and make her financially independent, or she will leave him. The banker panics and in the middle of the night he writes that he will marry her and give her one million dollars. But he is late in paying the money and she ends the relationship.
12 January 2005
The million dollars are put in a bank account with Credit Suisse in Montreux. At the start of the month she had written to him that it was a shame he didn’t keep his word because, for her, the money was merely symbolic: she would have given it back to him as proof of her love. He gives her the money. And despite her promise, the young woman takes her time in giving the money back – but she doesn’t transfer it to another bank account.
15 February 2005
Cécile B. joins a dinner in the loft of a Parisian artist. The next day she and Stern meet in New York.
22 February 2005
Edouard Stern has canton Vaud freeze the million, under false pretexts, saying that Cécile Brossard owes him the money from the sale of a painting. Three days later the couple have dinner together. The banker tells her that he’s had the account frozen. She doesn’t know if she should believe him. They spend the night together.
28 February 2005
She goes to his Geneva residence at 20:00. During the afternoon she was told by her banker that Edouard Stern had been telling her the truth when he said that the money in the account was blocked. She takes a bag with her sadomasochistic materials with her. The man is later found wearing a latex body suit with four bullets in his body, two of them in his head.
10 March 2005
Edouard Stern is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Veyrier, canton Geneva, as he had requested. The service was attended by his three children, a girl and two boys, all of them adults today, and his ex-wife; they came from the United States, where they were living.
15 March 2005
Cécile Brassard is arrested at the home of her husband in Clarens. She is charged with murder. She denies it, then admits it when faced with the proof that she had been lying about phoning her husband shortly after the murder to ask him to organize her escape to Australia.
Cécile Brassard appears before the judge 19 December, with her two lawyers. The hearing is open to the public. The defense team complains that the plaintiff is circulating incorrrect information, while Cécile Brassard believes that she has nothing to hide. The estime qu”elle n”a rien à cacher. Le public prosecutor in the end keeps only the murder charge.