Minister questioned in L'Oréal inquiry

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The Independent Online

Police questioned the French Labour Minister yesterday about his relationship with the billionaire L'Oréal cosmetics heiress in an investigation into a scandal that has reached the highest levels of President Nicolas Sarkozy's government.

Opponents are demanding that Eric Woerth resign from the government. They accuse him of tax evasion and accepting illegal cash donations for Mr Sarkozy's UMP party during the election campaign in 2007. They also accuse him of a conflict of interest because his wife worked as an investment adviser to the heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, the wealthiest woman in Europe.

The minister and Mr Sarkozy have previously denied the claims. Secret tapes recorded by Bettencourt's ex-butler and made public in leaks to the media suggested that she hid millions of euros in Swiss bank accounts to avoid paying taxes.