Sarkozy facing trial for allegedly taking millions from 90-year-old L’Oreal heiress By Peter Allen Nicolas Sarkozy was last night formally charged with ‘abusing the weakness’ of the richest woman in the world. The former French president now faces a criminal trial and possible prison sentence for allegedly taking millions of pounds from L’Oreal heiress Liliane [...]

Sunday Times 2

Ex-French President ‘abused the weakness of the world’s richest woman’

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Sarkozy facing trial for allegedly taking millions from 90-year-old L’Oreal heiress

By Peter Allen

Nicolas Sarkozy was last night formally charged with ‘abusing the weakness’ of the richest woman in the world.
The former French president now faces a criminal trial and possible prison sentence for allegedly taking millions of pounds from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, 90.
In the darkest day of his career, 58-year-old Mr Sarkozy was questioned by a judge at the Palais de Justice in Bordeaux, south west France.

Following the decision to indict him, a sombre looking Mr Sarkozy was seen being driven away from the city’s court building at high speed in a Renault Espace escorted by police.

Accused: Nicolas Sarkozy, left,

was last night formally charged with

‘abusing the weakness’

of the richest woman in the world,

Liliane Bettencourt , right

More than 3 million is said to have found its way into the coffers of the UMP, Mr Sarkozy’s political party, as he fought to become head of state in 2007.

Mr Sarkozy has constantly denied any wrong-doing, but judicial sources told AFP, France’s national news agency, that he had a meeting with Pascal Bonnefoy, Mrs Bettencourt’s former butler.

The face-to-face took place in the same Bordeaux court building where Mr Sarkozy was last year grilled at length about the so-called Bettencourt Affair.
Jean-Michel Gentil, the judge in charge, hoped to establish today how many times Mr Sarkozy actually visited Mrs Bettencourt’s luxury Paris home in the months before he was elected.

He insists that it was only once, despite many former Bettencourt staff members saying he was always popping round.
The principal allegation against Mr Sarkozy is that he took advantage of the frail state of the aged widow to take money from her.
Following last night’s decision, Thierry Herzog, Mr Sarkozy’s lawyer, described it as ‘incoherent’ and said there would be an immediate appeal.

Claire Thibout, Mrs Bettencourt’s former accountant, told police in 2010 that she had handed cash-filled envelopes to Bettencourt’s financial manager, Patrice de Maistre, who subsequently passed them on to Mr Sarkozy’s campaign treasurer, Eric Woerth.
Mr Sarkozy is also said to have collected money in person.

Mr Sarkozy was defeated by his Socialist rival, Francois Hollande, in last year’s presidential election, and also lost his immunity from prosecution.

Soon afterwards the house which he shares with his third wife, Carla Bruni, was raided by anti-corruption police.
Sarkozy is now trying to build a career on the international conference circuit, but is facing numerous investigations.
They include claims that he was paid millions by former Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi.

Despite all this, Sarkozy has regularly hinted that he may still make a bid to return to the Elysee Palace in 2017. This now looks an impossibility.
Mrs Bettencourt was recently listed as the richest woman in the world by Forbes magazine.

Daily Mail, London




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