French labor minister faces judicial question over Bettencourt's tax evasion

08:32, July 22, 2010      

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French Labor Minister Eric Woerth began to face judicial question by public prosecutors on Wednesday after the cabinet meeting approved the judicial investigation.

Primary investigation has been launched after the cabinet meeting gave a green light earlier in the day to Nanterre prosecutors to probe on the involvement of Woerth in alleged tax evasion by Liliane Bettencourt, the richest woman in France.

Woerth, the pillar minister in charge of highly controversial pension reform, was accused of overlooking Bettencourt's tax evasion and taking advantage of his influence to seek job for his wife in Bettencourt's group.

Bettencourt, the heirness of the L'Oreal, is in legal dispute with her daughter, which exposed allegations of tax evasion and illegal funding for the ruling party UMP during President Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential campaign.

Conclusion to investigation of Woerth's wife, who worked as a financial advisor to Bettencourt's fortune, didn't yet get out, but the minister firmly denied any wrongdoings.

"I have never asked anyone to hire my wife," he insisted during an interview with local radio Europe 1. "I hope to explain myself very calmly. I hope it can be very fast."

Woerth's lawyer said there was no fixed inquiry date for the minister and he would be questioned as a witness rather than a suspect in the case.

After the scandal emerged, Woerth announced he will resign the job as UMP's treasurer and said he is eager to face public probe in order to clear his name. Woerth's resignation will be in effect at the end of July.

Regular investigation of this kind will normally take two weeks, his lawyer said.

Source: Xinhua


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