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Bettencourt Scandal

French labour minister questioned in l’Oreal probe

Police search heiress’s daughter’s home in continuing tax evasion investigation.

FRENCH POLICE INVESTIGATING possible tax evasion and political corruption by the L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt have questioned the country’s labour minister.

An investigation was launched earlier this year after tapes secretly recorded by Bettencourt’s butler appeared to suggest Bettencourt was considering ways to avoiding paying tax in France.

Minister Eric Woerth has been accused of accepting illegal donactions on behalf of the UMP party. His wife, Florence Woerth, worked as Bettencourt’s financial adviser, but stepped down from her post last month.

Woerth has said he never helped his wife to be hired by the man handing Bettencourt’s estate. He said, “My wife had a normal career, she was hired in normal conditions,” and blamed the press for the “confusion” surrounding the case.

Bettencourt is believed to hold a fortune worth over €17 billion, making her France’s richest woman. One former employee, Claire Thibout, told authorities the heiress had made illegal donations to Woerth and Sarkozy’s successful election campaign in 2007.  Both deny the allegations.

Bettencourt’s estranged daughter’s house was searched by investigators yesterday, and diaries and computers were seized.