French Labor Minister Eric Woerth was questioned by authorities today for about six hours in an investigation into the finances of L’Oreal SA heiress Liliane Bettencourt, France’s richest woman.
Woerth spoke in his office in Paris as a witness to a police unit specialized in financial crimes, said a spokeswoman for the investigative magistrates leading the probe. She asked not to be named under the judicial agency’s policy.
The preliminary probe is looking into potential tax fraud and campaign finance-law violations after a former butler to Bettencourt released secretly made tapes in which her financial adviser refers to political gifts and overseas bank accounts.
Woerth “denied receiving any campaign financing except that authorized by the law,” Jean-Yves Le Borgne, the minister’s lawyer, told reporters today in Paris. Le Borgne said the police questioning gave Woerth “the opportunity to put an end” to “lies and fantasies” surrounding the case.
Until resigning last month, Woerth’s wife worked for the company that manages Bettencourt’s fortune. Woerth quit this month as treasurer of the Union for a Popular Movement, the party of President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Woerth, formerly budget minister with responsibility for tax collection, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has said he wanted to meet investigators to explain his side of the story.