By  on July 8, 2010

PARIS — The public prosecutor of Nanterre, France, on Wednesday opened a preliminary investigation into allegations of illegal funding for Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign made by a former accountant of Liliane Bettencourt, according to French media reports.

The former accountant told French Web site Mediapart in an interview that Bettencourt was involved in giving Eric Woerth, currently France’s labor minister but at the time chief of Sarkozy’s campaign, 150,000 euros in cash in spring 2007. The maximum funding allowed for a political party under French law is 7,500 euros per year.

Sarkozy and Woerth have denied the allegations, according to French news sources. Woerth has reportedly filed a complaint for defamation, and others involved in the case have also taken legal action.

The moves follow an original lawsuit brought by Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, Bettencourt’s daughter, against photographer François-Marie Banier in December 2007. She alleges Banier’s “exploitation of weakness” of her 87-year-old mother, who gave him assets valued at about 1 billion euros, or $1.26 billion at current exchange. 

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