Three Sarkozy allies to be questioned as Bettencourt probe nears its dramatic conclusion

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It has to be said that judge Jean-Michel Gentil is working flat out. Helped by two colleagues from the Bordeaux District Court, the investigating judge has devoted himself exclusively to working on the Bettencourt affair, a case he took over in December 2010. It is a high-profile investigation involving claims that France's wealthiest woman, the octogenarian Liliane Bettencourt, was taken advantage of by those around her, that Bettencourt money was used to fund, illegally, Nicolas Sarkozy's successful 2007 presidential campaign and that attempts were made at the highest level to prevent proper investigation of the affair.

In the latest development Mediapart has learned that the judge has now ordered for three people close to Sarkozy - Thierry Herzog, Xavier Musca and Patrick Ouart – to be questioned by police officers in connection with the much-publicised affair.