Labour Minister welcomes L'Oréal case report


French Labour Minister Eric Woerth expressed relief Monday after an official report released late Sunday found no indication that he had helped France's richest woman avoid paying taxes. The opposition Socialists are demanding an independent investigation.


The Finance Ministry report clears Woerth, a former Finance Minister, of any wrongdoing in connection with L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. It says there is no evidence that he intervened to protect Bettencourt from scrutiny from tax inspectors.

"I already feel a little better," Woerth commented Monday. "It's true that I am enormously relieved on this question, because at last people believe me, someone has told the truth."

French politics no stranger to scandals

But he said he may step down as treasurer of President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party to avoid any conflict of interest between political fundraising and his government duties.

"I'm going to think about it," he told a French radio station when asked about resigning from the party job.

Woerth and President Nicolas Sarkozy have denied allegations by a former Bettencourt accountant that the heiress gave illegal donations to Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign.

Will the Bettencourt scandal help the far right?

Sarkozy is due to go on national television Monday evening to comment on the scandal and defend Woerth.

Socialist Party spokesman Benoit Hamon said Monday that the report was just the Finance Ministry investigating itself, and that an independent probe should be done.

Police have seized documents from Bettencourt’s offices and have questioned the former accountant who claimed Woerth accepted money.

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