Dinners, cash and Sarkozy: what Bettencourt's accountant told Mediapart

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'Come on, it's for Sarkozy'

Claire Thibout said of those who received the cash payments: “"The most regular [visitors] were leading members of the Republican Party.”"

"He [André Bettencourt] gave them an envelope every two or three months,”" she continued. “"Sometimes 10,000, 20,000 or 30,000, first in francs then in euros, because even there also everything’'s getting more expensive. I know that, just before I arrived, Dédé had contributed cash payments to the financing of [former French Prime Minister] Edouard Balladur'’s [presidential election] campaign. Having said that, given he was generous, it wouldn’'t surprise me that he had also financed the political activities of [Balladur’'s rival and former French President] Jacques Chirac.”"

It was then that Thibout spoke of Minister of Labour Eric Woerth. During questioning by police, she also mentioned Woerth – but she was apparently not asked about her knowledge of donations to any other political figures.

"“It was at the end of March 2007,”" she recalled. “"Patrice de Maistre, who had become the person who looked after politicians because of Dédé'’s illness, summoned me to ask that I go and withdraw a sum that was three times more than usual, meaning 150,000 euros.”"

"“I refused, explaining that my authorisation did not permit it. He became angry, telling me that the bank would not refuse us this service. I asked him for the reason why he absolutely needed to retrieve such a sum and, then, he told me: ‘Come on, it’'s to finance [Nicolas] Sarkozy’'s presidential election campaign! I have to give some money to the person who looks after financing the campaign, Eric Woerth. And 50,000 euros is insufficient.’"

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Thibout continued: “"Despite the insistence of de Maistre, who almost threw a fit, I refused. I remember calling Eva, my contact at the BNP bank on the place Vendôme, the branch where Liliane Bettencourt has her principal account, to ask her opinion. I did not talk to her about the financing of Sarkozy, but she fully understood…. She told me that I should refuse, that I should not overdraw my accreditive limit, otherwise there was the risk that it would alert Tracfin [the French Finance Ministry unit in charge of investigating money laundering].”

Campaign fund-raiser, now labour minister, Eric Woerth. © DR Campaign fund-raiser, now labour minister, Eric Woerth. © DR
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"So I went as usual to the Avenue de la Grande Armée, I withdrew 50,000 euros, which I gave to Liliane Bettencourt, who then, in front of me, gave the envelope to de Maistre. And I filled in the accounts book with, against the sum, the mention ‘Bettencourt’, which I wrote myself. I always proceeded in that way when money destined for politicians was concerned, because there had to be no written trace. If Liliane Bettencourt gives them the books of accounts, the police can check what I am saying. I remember the date of this withdrawal for Sarkozy’'s campaign. It was March 26th, 2007.”"

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