By and  on August 26, 2010

PARIS — The Bettencourt affair took another twist on Wednesday, when Patrice de Maistre, Liliane Bettencourt’s financial adviser, was questioned again, largely about being decorated with the Legion of Honor in 2008. The questioning was part of a preliminary investigation launched by the prosecutor of Nanterre, France, a spokeswoman confirmed.

De Maistre was decorated with the award by Eric Woerth, currently France’s labor minister, but who at the time was the country’s budget minister.

Earlier this summer, Woerth was questioned about alleged illegal political donations and how his wife, Florence Woerth, came to oversee part of Bettencourt’s finances.

Claire Thibout, Bettencourt’s former accountant, was questioned on Tuesday.

Such investigations are part of what’s now called the Bettencourt affair, which stems from the lawsuit brought by Bettencourt’s daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, against photographer François-Marie Banier in December 2007. She alleges Banier’s “exploitation of weakness” of Bettencourt, the 87-year-old daughter of L’Oréal’s founder and owner of 31 percent of the company (as of year-end 2009). Bettencourt gave him assets valued at about 1 billion euros, or $1.27 billion at current exchange, and argues that she was acting of her own free will.

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