French President Nicolas Sarkozy has denied media reports he received a 150,000 euro cash donation for his presidential election campaign from the country’s richest woman.
It is the latest twist in a political scandal involving senior government figures including Labour Minister Eric Woerth.
Sarkozy said the nation had bigger concerns.
“I would like the country to be passionate about big problems, rather than jumping on the first horror story, slander, which has only one sleazy aim, without any kind of reality,” he said.
Woerth also responded to the claims that he was given the cash for Sarkozy.
“Anyone can talk about an envelope given to anyone. You could say tomorrow that someone has received an envelope and then, where is the evidence? It is completely crazy. You can believe in all the gossip you want. I have never touched, on the political level, one euro that was not legal.”
It is claimed that Liliane Bettencourt gave Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign 150,000 euros in illegal cash donations in unmarked envelopes.
Woerth, the then campaign treasurer, is alleged to have taken delivery of the money himself, according to a reported interview with an ex-bookeeper who worked for the L’Oreal heiress.
The scandal has piled further pressure on Sarkozy’s government, which is becoming increasingly unpopular at home as it tries to push through tough austerity measures.