LABOUR minister Eric Woerth is being investigated by a senior prosecutor over his connections with L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and favouritism claims in a land deal.
General prosecutor for the Cour de Cassation, Jean-Louis Nadal, has asked to see documents relating to Mr Woerth, including a report that cleared him of any involvement in Mrs Bettencourt's taxes while he was budget minister.
If he finds any evidence of illegal intervention in Mrs Bettencourt's tax affairs then he could refer Mr Woerth to a special court set up to deal with ministers.
Mr Woerth has denounced the renewed investigation as like a deer-hunt "except it is me who is playing the deer".
He said he had had two or three months of "stoning" by the media.
His wife, Florence, worked for Mrs Bettencourt while he was budget minister and in charge of tax affairs, and he has been under pressure since the release of tape-recordings of conversations between Mrs Bettencourt and her advisers.
One of those advisers, Patrice de Maistre (who had given Mrs Woerth her job), was later presented with the Légion d’Honneur by Mr Woerth.
Mr Woerth, who is in the middle of putting pension reforms to parliament, has also denied breaking the law over the sale of forest land in his Oise constituency.
Mrs Bettencourt owns 31 per cent of L'Oreal.
Her life has been in the spotlight since her daughter accused photographer François-Marie Banier of taking advantage of her feeble state of mind to get himself made her legal heir.
It was revealed at the weekend that he has now been removed as sole heir.