Former French minister acquitted in Sarkozy-linked corruption case
Issued on: Modified:
Former French budget minister Eric Woerth, a key ally of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, has been found not guilty of exploiting France's richest woman in a case concerning the funding of Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign. Two associates of L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt were sentenced to prison terms by the court in Bordeaux.
For the second time a court has declared Woerth innocent of the charge of abuse of a victim in a state of weakness in the L'Oréal affair, which has seen accusations that politicians left Bettencourt's home with suitcases stuffed with money.
Bettencourt was an ailing 84-year-old at the time.
Woerth, who was treasurer of Sarkozy's campaign, was accused of receiving cash from Patrice de Maistre, who ran Bettencourt's financial affairs.
Earlier the court declared Woerth innocent of influence peddling.
The court in the eastern French city was tougher on de Maistre and society photographer François-Marie Banier, however.
It found them both guilty of abuse of a victim in a state of weakness, sentencing the former to 18 months in prison and 12 suspended and the latter to 30 months in prison plus six suspended.
The case is one of several directly or indirectly concerning Sarkozy, who is in the process of revamping the mainstream right UMP under the proposed new name Les Républicains, and is believed to be preparing a new presidential bid in 2017.