Sarkozy and L'Oreal

Sarkozy's office denies report of Bettencourt cash

French president Nicolas Sarkozy's office denied allegations published in the daily Liberation today that he was handed cash by L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 election campaign.

The assertions, made in extracts printed in Liberation of a book, 'Sarkozy Killed Me', to go on sale tomorrow, threaten to revive a political and financial scandal that gripped France a year ago and rocked Sarkozy's government.

"These allegations are scandalous, unfounded and untruthful," a spokesman at Sarkozy's office told Reuters.

In the book, written by two journalists from the influential daily Le Monde about various people's dealings with Sarkozy, the judge who first investigated the Bettencourt affair, Isabelle Prevost-Desprez, says a witness claimed to have seen the heiress hand cash to Sarkozy when he was campaigning for election.

"Liliane Bettencourt's nurse told my stenographer, after being questioned by me: 'I saw cash payments to Sarkozy, but I couldn't say it in my statement'," Desprez is quoted as saying.

The Bettencourt affair first surfaced in spring 2010, when the billionaire's daughter, Francoise Meyers-Bettencourt, sued photographer Francois-Marie Banier, a friend of the heiress, asserting that he was swindling her mother out of large sums of money.

The subsequent investigation quickly ballooned into a broad political scandal, involving allegations of influence-peddling by then budget minister and former party secretary Eric Woerth and illegal financing of the ruling UMP party.

French law limits donations to political parties to €7,500 per person per year. Only €150 may be given in cash.

Woerth left the government at the end of last year and Bettencourt, 88, has said she has no memory of giving him money. She has said nothing about giving cash to Sarkozy.

(Published by The Sun Daily - August 31, 2011)

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