'Bettencourt funded Sarkozy'

2010-07-06 10:12

Paris - President Nicolas Sarkozy's office denied on Tuesday a media report that he had received a €150 000 cash donation from France's richest woman for his 2007 presidential election campaign.

A former accountant who worked for Liliane Bettencourt, the main shareholder in cosmetics giant L'Oreal, was quoted on Tuesday as saying she gave Labour Minister Eric Woerth the donation in cash.

An official in Sarkozy's office, asked if the president had received a cash payment, said: "That's totally false."

Asked whether Woerth, treasurer of Sarkozy's campaign in 2007, had received such a donation, the official said: "That seems unfounded but you must check with the treasurer of the campaign."

News website Mediapart, which last month reported secret recordings of telephone conversations between Bettencourt and her wealth manager, said it had exclusively interviewed a former bookkeeper who said the billionairess and her late husband had regularly given cash donations to conservative politicians.

Minister denies wrongdoing

"She cites two names, Eric Woerth, the current labour minister, who has long been treasurer of the UMP party, and she recounts how in March 2007 she gave him cash - so much that she had to go and fetch some in Switzerland - altogether €150 000, and she gave it to him for Nicolas Sarkozy," Mediapart editor Edwy Plenel told France Inter radio.

Woerth, whose wife worked for Bettencourt's wealth manager until she resigned last month, has denied any wrongdoing and rejected any conflict of interest between his dual roles as treasurer of the ruling party and budget minister until March.

A spokesperson for Woerth was not immediately available for comment.

Plenel did not disclose the name of the former accountant. The story on Mediapart's homepage identified her only as Claire T.

A public prosecutor who reported suspicions of tax evasion by Bettencourt to the budget ministry last year planned to open an investigation into the suspected laundering of evasion proceeds, his office said on Monday.