Sarkozy Minister embroiled in secret tapes scandal

A minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy`s cabinet has been embroiled in secret tapes scandal.

Last Updated: Jun 20, 2010, 23:24 PM IST

Paris: A scandal over secretly taped
conversations involving France`s richest woman, Liliane
Bettencourt, threatened today to engulf a high-profile
minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy`s cabinet.

Labour Minister Eric Woerth, who is leading the
government`s pension reform, was forced to hit back after his
wife was linked to the furore over the tapes reportedly
revealing that the 87-year-old billionaire plotted to evade
taxes.

"Enough is enough. My wife is going to file a complaint,"
Woerth said in an interview with several French media. He
vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Woerth`s wife Florence managed part of Bettencourt`s
financial affairs from 2007 until this year and her ties to
the heiress of the L`Oreal cosmetics fortune have come under
scrutiny following reports of the secret tapes.

The conversations -- transcripts of which were published
by the Mediapart website last week -- reveal that Bettencourt
allegedly hid money in Swiss bank accounts while making big
donations to friends in the governing UMP party.

The tapes were recorded by Bettencourt`s former butler
and have brought a new twist to a legal saga between the
billionaire and her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers,
who sees her mother as no longer fit to manage the family
fortune.

The makeup heiress ranks 17th on the Forbes list of the
world`s billionaires, with a fortune estimated at USD 20
billion.

The scandal comes at a delicate time for Sarkozy who is
seeking to push through an overhaul of the pensions system in
the face of opposition from the unions who have called for
nationwide strikes.

PTI