Nicolas Sarkozy went on TV last night to defend himself and his party against allegations that they took illegal cash donations from Liliane Bettencourt—the richest woman in France, and heir to the L’Oreal fortune. Sarkozy said he’d attended Bettencourt’s parties, but said nothing untoward had occurred there, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Can you imagine? I arrive in front of other guests and I leave with cash?” he said. “This is slander.”
The scandal began when a family dispute lead to the discovery that one of Bettencourt’s former butlers had secretly recorded conversations between heiress and her money manager, in which they discussed avoiding taxes and funding UMP politicians. Party treasurer Eric Woerth has come under particular scrutiny, because his wife worked for the company managing Bettencourt’s finances. Last night, Sarkozy said he’d ask Woerth to resign as treasurer, but still trusted him to keep his Labor Minister job and shepherd the party’s unpopular pension reform legislation.