French Labor Minister Eric Woerth said his wife is stepping down from her job managing assets for L’Oreal SA heiress Liliane Bettencourt, whose alleged tax irregularities have kicked up a political storm in the country.
Florence Woerth worked in a company that handled the dividends received by Bettencourt, France’s richest woman. Transcripts of an alleged conversation by Bettencourt, taped secretly by her butler and published on the website of Mediapart, suggested that the heiress was planning on evading taxes, the news service said. Woerth today said his wife was unaware of any alleged tax irregularities.
“She’s quitting because it’s become untenable,” he said in an interview with BFM television. “She has nothing to reproach herself for. There’s no way my wife could have known about all these accounts they are talking about because they would have been handled elsewhere. There is no way any tax fraud took place within the structure where my wife worked.”
Woerth, who previously was budget minister and led a crackdown on tax evasion, said he didn’t know about Bettencourt’s tax situation.
“It may surprise you, but the budget minister doesn’t decide on tax audits,” Woerth said. “We live in a modern republic, and our revenue service knows how to do its job.”
In the Mediapart transcript, Bettencourt is alleged to have funnelled 80 million euros ($99 million) in undeclared funds to Swiss accounts.
The opposition Socialist Party has asked for Woerth’s resignation.
To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@Bloomberg.net.