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Trial begins in sex-games slaying of French banker

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ELIANE ENGELER | June 10, 2009 01:11 PM EST | AP

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GENEVA — A woman charged with the murder of one of France's richest men during sex games begged his family's forgiveness Wednesday at the start of her trial in Switzerland.

Banker Edouard Stern was killed in 2005, his body found in his penthouse apartment in Geneva, clad in a latex suit and shot four times, authorities said.

His mistress Cecile Brossard, 40, was arrested two weeks later and confessed, according to Prosecutor Daniel Zappelli.

Brossard told Geneva's Court of Assizes that she was sorry.

"I would like to ask forgiveness from Mrs. Stern and her children," Brossard told a courtroom packed with 100 spectators, including dozens of reporters. "I know that it is offensive because you cannot pardon something this horrible. My heart is full of remorse."

The woman had not yet testified on the circumstances of the killing, but her lawyer Alec Reymond said it was a crime of passion, which is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. The prosecution said it was murder, punishable by 20 years in prison.

Two of the children and Stern's ex-wife, who live in New York, are attending the trial. The court went into closed session to listen to their testimony. Stern and his wife divorced in 1999.

Brossard said Stern, 50, promised her $1 million to help her become financially independent, Zappelli said. Stern then deposited the sum in a special account for her, but the two quarreled over control of the money.

Brossard told the court, however, "It was not a question of money. It was a question of love."

Zappelli said that when the couple met for the last time they had "games of a sexual nature, consisting of her dominating him."

"Edouard Stern was sitting tied up on a chair in a submissive position," according to the prosecutor.

A police inspector told the court that Brossard had confessed to becoming enraged when Stern told her during their sexual games, "One million for a whore, that's expensive."

The prosecution says she then got one of Stern's guns and shot him once in the face, then in the chest and side. He fell to the floor, and she fired a fourth shot in the temple, killing him.

Brossard has been in prison since 2005.

Xavier Gillet, who was Brossard's companion and supported her financially, said Stern sometimes harassed her the whole day with phone calls and messages.

Gillet, 21 years older than Brossard, said he didn't realize Brossard had an intimate relation with the banker.

Brossard had told him she was Stern's "sexual secretary," Gillet told the court, indicating she put Stern in touch with call girls.

Stern had a long background in investment banking, working for his family firm Banque Stern from the age of 22 and forcing his father out of the company two years later _ with the help of two uncles.

He sold the family business in 1985, but stayed on as chairman until 1998.

He also was once in line to succeed his father-in-law, Michel David-Weill, as head of the investment bank Lazard LLC, but left the company in 1997 after they argued.

He then set up his own investment fund, Investments Real Returns SA.


Associated Press writer Nathalie Ogi contributed.