Bettencourt personally questioned over accusations

Liliane Bettencourt, L'Oreal heiress and France's richest woman, was questioned on Monday by French police as part of an ongoing investigation into her finances.

Bettencourt (pictured) was being questioned as a witness in an investigation into tax evasion and apparent illegal donations given to the French government by the heiress.

According to her lawyer, Georges Kiejman, Bettencourt was questioned at her home in Neuilly, Paris. He told reporters yesterday: "I wasn't present at the questioning, but I understand from my client that it was very courteous and as complete as possible given that these were sometimes old memories."

The allegations first surfaced in June when Bettencourt's former butler released illicit recordings of the heiress in talks with an advisor over apparently undisclosed holdings in Switzerland and the Seychelles. Following the accusations, Bettencourt announced she planned to declare all of her family's assets currently held abroad in order to fully cooperate with the authorities. (Continue reading here)

The case was further complicated when another former member of Bettencourt's staff, her accountant Claire Thibout, claimed Bettencourt had donated ?150,000 to the party of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. (Continue reading here) Sarkozy denies the claims.

In the background to the political scandal is a family conflict that has been rumbling on for three years; Bettencourt's only daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, has brought a case against a close confident of her mother's, claiming he took advantage of the 87-year-old heiress' mental "frailty" for just under ?1 billion. The trial was scheduled to begin earlier this month, but was postponed while the authorities investigate the content of the butler's recordings.

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