Madoff probe to question French financier: officials

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Police will question a financier linked to a party-funding scandal that has hit the French government in a separate probe over Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff, a judicial official said on Friday.

A judge investigating the alleged defrauding of French investors by Madoff will question Patrice de Maistre, wealth manager for L'Oreal billionaire Liliane Bettencourt, this month as a witness over his alleged links to Madoff, the official said.

Madoff was handed a 150-year prison sentence last year for the biggest financial fraud in US history, a three-decade bogus investment scam that fell apart during the economic crisis, ruining investors in numerous countries.

The 87-year-old Bettencourt was allegedly among the European investors duped by Madoff, losing 30 million euros (38 million dollars). Her fortune is estimated at 17 billion euros.

Bettencourt owned companies linked to Luxalpha, a former Luxembourg-based fund that handled some of Madoff's investments.

Maistre, her financial manager, has also been questioned in recent weeks by French investigators in a separate affair of alleged conflicts of interest and illegal party funding implicating France's Labour Minister, Eric Woerth.

Woerth has denied any wrongdoing but that affair has embarrassed President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government as he tries to push through a key pensions reform and struggles in the opinion polls.

© 2010 AFP

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