French ex-budget minister intervened in tax probe: report

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France's embattled labour minister intervened in a tax case in 2008 while serving as budget minister following lobbying by a major financial supporter, the daily Liberation reported Wednesday.

Eric Woerth, who has publicly stated he did not personally intervene in any tax probes amid a financial scandal surrounding the L'Oreal cosmetics heiress, acted to obtain 27 million euros (36 million dollars) in tax relief on the inheritance of sculptor Cesar Baldaccini, the newspaper said.

The newspaper published excerpts of a letter signed by Woerth in April 2008 which it says "shows without ambiguity that Eric Woerth used all the weight of his office to obtain tax relief" for the inheritance.

He wrote the letter after talks with the executor of the sculptor's will, Alain-Dominique Perrin, president of the Fondation Cartier contemporary art museum and a major donor to the ruling UMP party, the newspaper reported.

Woerth, who was also the chief UMP party fundraiser, has been embroiled in a scandal involving 87-year-old L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, France's richest woman, over allegations she illegally bankrolled Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign and sought to evade taxes.

Woerth has denied any wrongdoing and any conflict of interest in his then role as budget minister and UMP party treasurer. He has refused to resign as labour minister but will step down as his party's treasurer.

© 2010 AFP

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