French police have questioned the L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt about suspected tax evasion and illegal political donations in an affair that has shaken the government.
The 87-year-old, who is believed to be the country’s richest woman, was questioned as a witness to the investigation at her home in a Paris suburb.
It follows secret recordings of conversations she had with her financial adviser.
Her lawyer, Georges Kiejman, said the heiress was questioned for two hours on everything the media had predicted: on her sporadic acquaintance with the Labour minister and his wife; on political party funding which, he said, was more her husband’s domain; and on the question of a Seychelles island allegedly used as a tax haven. This was a complicated matter, he said, that needed more technical investigation.
The lawyer also revealed that his client’s office was searched. Bettencourt has promised to repatriate money from two previously undeclared Swiss accounts and put her tax affairs in order with French authorities.
The Labour minister Eric Woerth is expected to be quizzed by police later this week. He has denied receiving illegal party donations from the heiress.