L’Oreal heiress quizzed over tax scandal

Police
are questioning France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt,
over claims of illegal political donations and tax evasion.

Investigators
visited the 87-year-old at her Paris home to ask about Swiss bank accounts and
a Seychelles island allegedly used as a tax haven.

Both
issues were mentioned in secret recordings made by a former butler.

Mrs
Bettencourt’s lawyer said she was being questioned as a witness.

The
recorded conversations between Mrs Bettencourt and her financial adviser, which
were leaked to the French press, allegedly show that she had sought to use the
Swiss accounts to escape French taxes.

It
is unclear whether Mrs Bettencourt owns the Seychelles island which the
recordings suggest she used as a tax haven.

The
recordings are also alleged to suggest Mrs Bettencourt was a generous donor to
French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential election campaign and to a
political association run by his top fundraiser and now Labour minister, Eric
Woerth, and that those donations exceeded the legal limit.

Both
Mr Woerth and Mr Sarkozy deny any wrongdoing in the case.

A
government report said Mr Woerth did not use his former position as budget
minister to spare Mrs Bettencourt from tax inspections.

Mrs
Bettencourt has admitted tax evasion and has promised to put her affairs in
order.

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