‘Guru’ jailed for swindling French aristocratic

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iol pic wld marchand AFP Jean Marchand (L), victim of the "guru" Thierry Tilly, answers journalists' questions as he leaves the courtroom with his lawyer Edouard Martial (R), on September 24, 2012.

A fake guru was sentenced to eight years in jail on Tuesday for brainwashing and swindling three generations of an aristocratic French family out of their fortune.

The judge in the southwestern city of Bordeaux who handed 48-year-old Thierry Tilly the sentence described him as the perpetrator of a “machiavellian plot” against Ghislaine de Vedrines and 10 members of her family.

The family remained under Tilly's sway from 2000 to 2009, locking themselves away in their home, selling their belongings, including the family chateau, and giving the guru 4.5 million euros ($5.7 million).

Tilly, who had convinced the family that they were victims of an international plot that only he could defeat, was convicted of psychological abuse.

The so-called Oxford guru, after the British city where he had his base, was also stripped of his civic rights for five years.

French tax authorities eventually seized the family chateau when they stopped paying taxes, after which Tilly took them to Oxford to live.

Tilly was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 following a complaint by a family member who had escaped his clutches in Oxford.

His accomplice, Jacques Gonzalez, was sentenced to four years in jail. - AFP

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