Sarkozy linked to L`Oreal cash scandal

President Nicolas Sarkozy was directly linked for the first time to L`Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt`s murky finances today, with claims his presidential campaign received 150,000 euros in cash.

Updated: Jul 06, 2010, 16:43 PM IST

Paris: President Nicolas Sarkozy was directly
linked for the first time to L`Oreal heiress Liliane
Bettencourt`s murky finances today, with claims his
presidential campaign received 150,000 euros in cash.

An aide to Sarkozy dismissed the latest reports as
"totally false", as the French government was drawn deeper
into a series of scandals that had already embroiled his
labour minister and seen two other ministers resign.
An accountant, identified by the investigative website
Mediapart as Claire T, said Eric Woerth, a Sarkozy ally and
treasurer of his UMP party, received the donation in March
2007, ahead of Sarkozy`s election victory in May.

The accountant`s lawyer, Antoine Gillot, confirmed to AFP
his client had told police investigating Bettencourt`s
finances about the alleged payment.

Woerth has since served as Sarkozy`s budget minister and
is now his labour minister, and faces calls for his
resignation after he was accused of conflict of interest in
his relations with Bettencourt, France`s richest woman.

The accountant also claimed that Sarkozy himself was a
regular visitor at the Bettencourt family home, where he too
allegedly received envelopes of cash when he was mayor of the
town of Neuilly, west of Paris.
The allegations hit Sarkozy at a crucial time as he
struggles with plunging popularity and difficult economic
reforms while eyeing re-election in 2012.

His approval ratings are at an all time low of 26 per
cent, and a poll conducted by Vivavoice and the daily
Liberation just before the ministers` resignations found 64
per cent of voters think the political class corrupt.

If the allegations are confirmed, the party payments
would be illegal, surpassing the limit of 7,500 euros
permitted for political donations to parties and 4,600 euros
to individuals.

PTI