French minister denies interfering in tax case

August 4, 2010 12:00 am

, PARIS, Aug 4 – France\’s embattled labour minister denied fresh conflict of interest claims Wednesday after a newspaper reported that he had intervened in a tax audit at the request of a wealthy party donor.

Labour Minister Eric Woerth, who was involved in tax matters in his former role as budget minister, was already caught up in financial scandals linked to L\’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt that have embarrassed the government.

The newspaper Liberation published part a letter signed by Woerth in April 2008 which it said showed he worked to ensure 27 million euros (36 million dollars) in tax relief on the inheritance of sculptor Cesar Baldaccini.

The labour ministry responded that Woerth had "respected tax laws" and "strictly followed the guidance of the fiscal administration" in the case.

The newspaper said Woerth acted to obtain tax relief on Baldaccini\’s inheritance following lobbying by a major financial supporter of President Nicolas Sarkozy\’s majority UMP party, Alain-Dominique Perrin.

Woerth, who was also UMP party treasurer, is embroiled in investigations linked to 87-year-old billionaire Bettencourt, over allegations she illegally bankrolled Sarkozy\’s 2007 election campaign and sought to evade taxes.

Woerth has denied any wrongdoing and any conflict of interest in his then role as budget minister and fundraiser for the UMP. He has refused to resign as labour minister but stepped down as party treasurer.



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