The financial adviser to the L’Oreal cosmetics heiress at the centre of a French government financial scandal was taken in for questioning by prosecutors today.
Patrice de Maistre, who worked for 87-year-old Liliane Bettencourt, was being held in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.
Bettencourt’s former tax lawyer Fabrice Goguel and the manager of an island in the Seychelles that she owns, Carles Vejarano, were also being held for questioning, an official said.
So too was celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier, accused by Bettencourt’s daughter of cheating her mother out of a €1bn in gifts.
They were being questioned as part of a preliminary investigation into Ms Bettencourt’s finances, including suspicions of tax evasion. She is France’s richest woman and one of the country’s biggest taxpayers.
Ms Bettencourt’s finances have been at the centre of a political storm that includes claims that she gave money illegally to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative party during his 2007 election campaign. Mr Sarkozy and his party’s treasurer have denied the claims.
Ms Bettencourt is seeking an independent audit of her finances to defend herself against accusations that she is being manipulated by friends and advisers.
Ms Bettencourt, who is in a legal dispute with her daughter, said yesterday that she ordered an audit of three companies that handle her finances to show that she knows “perfectly how to manage” her family’s affairs.