Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

Many Turks angry over Syrian refugee situation

Read more

REPORTERS

Halal tourism on the rise

Read more

ENCORE!

Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday : The Best of the Bard

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

The Tour de France, a PR machine

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the third plane crash in one week - from France, Algeria and Burkina Faso

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the plane crash that took 116 lives - almost half of them French

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • French families grieve for Algerian plane crash victims

    Read more

  • French lawyer files complaint against Israel at ICC

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • LA Times wipes France off the map in air crash infographic

    Read more

  • Tour de France fans bring the ambience to the Pyrenees

    Read more

  • Ukraine names acting PM after Yatseniuk's shock resignation

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

France

Bettencourt’s ex-accountant partially retracts statement in donations scandal

Video by Catherine NORRIS TRENT

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-07-09

Claire Thibout, ex-accountant of billionaire Liliane Bettencourt, has retracted parts of her initial statement regarding an illegal 150,000 euro donation to Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 presidential campaign during further police questioning on Thursday.

 

Claire Thibout, Liliane Bettencourt’s former accountant, met with the billionaire L’Oreal heiress’s financial advisor Patrice de Maistre in a three-hour confrontation at police headquarters in Paris on Thursday, as part of an ongoing investigation into whether Bettencourt made an illegal contribution to Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign.
 
Thibout stuck to the latest version of her story, put forward during a first round of questioning by economic crime investigators on Wednesday night in the city of Nîmes, near her home in the south of France.
 
When initially interrogated, she largely backtracked on statements that she had made to the news Web site Mediapart on Tuesday July 6, and has apparently since testified that some of the details which appeared on Mediapart were inaccurate.
 
“I never said that…envelopes were regularly delivered to Mr. Sarkozy,” Thibout stated, according to news Web site LeFigaro.fr.
 
This is the first and most significant point on which Thibout contradicts herself. Her latter testimony stands in stark contrast to Mediapart’s July 6 article, which quoted Thibout providing detailed descriptions of dinners at Bettencourt’s house, at the end of which Sarkozy, then-mayor of the upscale Paris suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine, “would also receive his envelope”.
 
Mediapart: fact or fiction?
 
This isn’t the only point on which Thibout’s respective stories don’t line up. In her initial Mediapart interview, the former accountant claimed that “Dédé [André Bettencourt] had contributed…to the cash financing of [former French Prime Minister] Edouard Balladur’s campaign”.
 
A day later, Thibout told police that “Mediapart’s article portrayed me as saying something concerning Mr. Balladur’s electoral campaign. It’s completely false, it’s fictionalised by Mediapart,” Lefigaro.fr reported.
 
And, Thibout’s police testimony also contradicts her Mediapart interview on the issue of exactly when Patrice de Maistre asked her to withdraw 150,000 euros from the bank with the intention of passing the cash to Eric Woerth, who was then acting as treasurer for Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential campaign.
 
Thibout refused to withdraw the requested amount, arguing she didn’t have the authority to take out more than 50,000 euros from Bettencourt’s BNP Paribas account. Thibout told Mediapart that this exchange took place on March 26, 2007. Later, in her testimony to the police, Thibout stated that this date was incorrect.
 
However, French police confirmed Wednesday that 50,000 euros in cash were in fact withdrawn on March 26, 2007. But according to account ledgers published on Thursday by the daily newspaper “Libération”, there is no record of the money being handed over to de Maistre during the month of March. Instead, a transfer of 140,000 euros appeared in the ledger in January of the same year.
 
Mediapart sticks to its story
 
This sudden shift in the Bettencourt-Woerth scandal is great news for the Elysée.
 
“The fact that the truth has been restored is a pleasure,” said Claude Guéant, secretary-general of the Elysée, according to the AFP.
 
Another source close to the President was quoted on Lefigaro.fr as saying it was a “turning point”.
 
“She [Claire Thibout] was completely manipulated by Mediapart. We have the impression she is saying that the article did not fairly reproduce the remarks she made to a Mediapart journalist over the phone. She completely and clearly maintains the innocence of the President of the Republic”.
 
However, Mediapart is staunchly defending the accuracy of its journalism. The company says that Claire Thibout’s comments were accurately transcribed during the two conversations she had with Mediapart journalists, with a third party acting as a witness during each interview.
 
“This is a woman who has totally panicked and is scared,” said Fabrice Lhomme, one of the journalists who interviewed Thibout. “She’s living under an incredible amount of pressure from the police, and all the while there still isn’t a judge named, it’s a preliminary inquiry, and she’s been interrogated I don’t know how many times. She’s going back on a point that is sensitive and which concerns the President.”
 
“That doesn’t change anything that we’ve written. We maintain that the comments that were reported were done so accurately,” Lhomme continued.
 
 

 

Date created : 2010-07-08

  • FRANCE

    Labour minister to file complaint over illegal donations allegations

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    Inquiry launched into L’Oreal/Sarkozy donations scandal

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    The heiress, the butler, the minister: Who's who in the Bettencourt trial

    Read more

COMMENT(S)