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Govt inspectors ease scandal over French minister

Last Updated: Monday, July 12, 2010 - 11:08

Paris: French financial inspectors offered a boost to the scandal-hit government by clearing Labour Minister Eric Woerth of accusations that he helped L`Oreal billionaire Liliane Bettencourt evade taxes.

The report by the General Financial Inspection office (IGF) strengthened President Nicolas Sarkozy`s hand as he moves to calm a huge political funding scandal before
unveiling a sensitive pensions bill on Tuesday.

The IGF, which is under the authority of the finance ministry, said that Woerth did not use his power when he was budget minister to spare Bettencourt from tax inspectors,
according to an extract quoted in a ministry statement.

"During the period when he was budget minister, (Woerth) did not intervene in the services under his authority to demand, prevent or influence a decision or an inspection
affecting Mrs Bettencourt," it said.

Woerth had been linked to alleged attempts to evade taxes by the 87-year-old heiress, France`s richest woman, when he was in charge of fighting tax cheats as budget minister.

His name was mentioned in conversations secretly recorded and leaked by her butler, which sparked a widening scandal linked to the billionaire`s fortune.

Woerth has also been accused of a conflict of interest because his wife worked for a company managing Bettencourt`s estate while he was minister and because he is treasurer for the governing UMP party.

Bettencourt`s former accountant alleged last week that Woerth had received 150,000 euros (190,000 dollars) from Bettencourt as a donation for Nicolas Sarkozy`s 2007 presidential campaign far more than the legal limit.


First Published: Monday, July 12, 2010 - 11:08
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