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Sarkozy appears in court over scandal

Former president questioned over illegal 2007 election campaign contribution of L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt

FORMER president Nicolas Sarkozy will appear before a Bordeaux court today to answer questions surrounding the l'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and allegations of illegal funding for his 2007 presidential campaign.

Investigating judges want to know how much the president knew of payments of cash in envelopes that came from the Bettencourt household to Sarkozy's 2007 campaign treasurer Eric Woerth.

Bettencourt's former accountant Claire Thibout has alleged that an envelope containing €150,000 was handed to Woerth, who resigned as finance minister over the affair.

The judges also want to know why Sarkozy met eight times with the previous judge heading up this inquiry, Philippe Courroye, from 2008-2010.

They will decide whether Sarkozy should be classified as someone involved in the case or simply as an assistant witness.

Officially the case is investigating the possible exploitation of Liliane Bettencourt, France's richest woman, who, at 87, has been accused several times of being incapable of running her affairs.

It dates from 2007 when Bettencourt's daughter accused photographer Michel Barnier of exploiting her after her mother gave him around €1bn in gifts.

The case, which has since become a legal fight over whether Bettencourt should be made a ward of the state, exploded into French politics when a tape was leaked of Bettencourt's accountant discussing secret Swiss bank accounts and illegal payments to France's then finance minister Eric Woerth.
It is the second time that a former president has appeared in court, the first being Jacques Chirac's trial for funding fictitious employees while mayor of Paris for which he received a two-year suspended prison sentence.

Sarkozy was said by members of his entourage to be confident ahead of his appearance.

Photo: European People's Party

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