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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Bettencourt: Les plaintes pleuvent

by Lina Sankari

The L’Oréal-Heir Affair : Complaints Come Pelting Down

Translated Saturday 26 June 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Bill Scoble

The Bettencourt scuffle is now at its most intense. The wife of France’s former minister of the budget, Eric Woerth, resigns from her post with the company that manages part of the French billionaire’s fortune.

It was easy for socialist Jérôme Cahuzac, president of the National Assembly’s financial committee, to explain: “There is as yet no Bettencourt affair, and no Woerth affair either.” But on Monday 22, Olivier Metzner, counsel for Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, Liliane Bettencourt’s daughter, took his turn by announcing his intention to sue Liliane B.’s counsel, Georges Kiejman, for libel. In a public statement Counsel Kiejman had indeed accused Counsel Metzner of having masterminded the recording of private conversations by Liliane Bettencourt’s butler. These tapes have sparked a controversy that targets Éric Woerth, then minister of the budget, whose wife Florence was in charge of managing part of Liliane Bettencourt’s fortune in the Clymène company.

The minister’s wife is suspected of having gotten wind of the billionaire’s alleged tax evasion. Liliane Bettencourt has indeed announced the fiscal regularization of the assets she holds abroad, adding that she was « one of the biggest private income-tax payers”. Her bank account in Switzerland is rumoured to have been transferred to « a life-insurance contract » for the benefit of one of her grandsons. Éric Woerth announced yesterday that his wife would resign “in the next few days.” He said there had been no attempt at tax evasion whatsoever and explained that his wife’s mission was to propose investments within the bounds of the law.

It remains for Liliane Bettencourt to come clean about her gifts to Valérie Pécresse for the regional election campaign, and also to Nicolas Sarkozy and Éric Woerth, treasurer of the UMP ruling party. Seeing how the scandal grew, Nicolas Sarkozy’s special adviser, Henri Gaino, denounced « the populist wave » and warned against bringing grist to the mill of "all of those rotten bastards!"

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