The Liliane Bettencourt scandal has all the ingredients of a prime time soap opera and has put French President Nicolas Sarkozy under intense pressure.
President Sarkozy denies claims that his presidential campaign was funded illegally by France's richest woman, but the affair has brought his popularity to an all-time low. 87-year-old Bettencourt reportedly has a net worth of €17 billion, largely in holdings of stock in cosmetics giant L’Oréal. The scandal was first brought to light by her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers. It started out as a legal dispute over the family fortune between the two, but when prosecutors opened a separate investigation into Liliane Bettencourt's tax affairs, her political connections came under the spotlight - including her donations to Sarkozy's conservative party, the UMP. Even her butler and her accountant have given their version of events.