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Bettencourt associates detained as part of corruption probe

French investigators have detained four men, including the financial advisor to L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, in a probe into suspected tax evasion and illegal political donations by France's richest woman.

Liliane Bettencourt walks out of Elysee Palace

Bettencourt stands accused of money laundering and illegal party donations

Four men have been detained by French police for questioning as part of a widening investigation into allegations of tax evasion and illegal political donations by France's richest woman, L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

A spokeswoman for the public prosecutor said Francois-Marie Banier, a close associate of Bettencourt, Patrice de Maistre, her financial advisor, Fabrice Goguel, her tax lawyer, and Carlos Vejarano, who reportedly manages a property in the Seychelles islands owned by Bettencourt, were being held at the headquarters of the financial crimes division.

The four men will likely be held for 48 hours, after which police must either charge or release them.

The men were being questioned as part of three investigations ordered by Philippe Couroye, the public prosecutor of the Paris suburb of Nanterre, into several allegations surrounding Bettencourt.

Investigators are looking into suspected laundering of the proceeds of tax evasion, invasion of privacy and allegations of illegal donations to President Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign.

Last week, police searched the offices and homes of several figures linked with the investigation, including de Maistre.

Three days later, Sarkozy appeared on public TV to defend himself and cabinet minister Eric Woerth tied up in the scandal from any wrongdoing.

Author: Darren Mara (Reuters/AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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