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The French heiress and the president

Nicolas Sarkozy is embroiled in a scandal, but that's not the only reason the French are in revolt.

Unanswered questions remain about the millions Bettencourt is said to have in Swiss bank accounts and the revelations that Woerth’s wife, until she resigned last month, worked as a financial adviser to the billionaire. In the course of their investigation, police searched the offices of the wealth manager with whom Woerth’s wife worked.

Woerth finally received some good news ahead of his speech to lawmakers about the president's pension plans and ahead of Sarkozy’s TV appearance. A report by the General Inspectorate of Finance released online Sunday exonerated the UMP treasurer of any wrongdoing, concluding that Woerth did not take any measures to “ask for, hinder, or steer” any tax audit involving the heiress to the L’Oreal fortune. Still, an estimated 60 percent of French found it shocking that, as minister Woerth was able to hold the title of party treasurer without any conflict of interest. Woerth has not ruled out resigning from that post.

And the website, Mediapart, that reported on the juiciest aspects of the story — including statements made by a former Bettencourt accountant, who claimed she was asked to withdraw 50,000 euros as part of a 150,000 donation allegedly to Sarkozy’s campaign — has also come under fire for shoddy journalism, especially since the woman later recanted some of her statements. Both sides are standing by their stories.

Meanwhile the trial of Francois-Marie Banier, the socialite accused of fleecing the 87-year-old heiress of more than 1 billion euros in gifts that included cash, paintings by Picasso and Matisse and life insurances policies, has been delayed pending the results of the investigation into the secret recordings. Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers has claimed that Banier preyed on and manipulated her frail mother during the two decades of their friendship. If convicted, he faces three years in prison and 75,000 euros in fines.

The public has followed the affair with waning interest as each new layer has seemed to add more confusion rather than offer clarification.

At the same time, the public trust continues to erode.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/france/100712/france-bettencourt-scandal-sarkozy