French Police Detain Four People Close to L'Oreal Heiress


French police detained four people close to L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt in a scandal that has embarrassed the French government.

Bettencourt's wealth manager, tax lawyer, property manager and a close friend were all detained in an investigation into alleged tax evasion and money laundering, Reuters reported. Bettencourt is France's richest woman and the main shareholder in cosmetics giant L'Oreal.

Bettencourt's former bookkeeper alleges that the billionairess and her late husband made illegal donations to conservative politicians, including President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Secret recordings made by a former butler in the Bettencourt household seem to show her advisers discussing undisclosed bank accounts. Transcripts of the recordings were published in the French media.

"These four people are in custody for questioning about the contents of the secret recordings," the spokeswoman for Nanterre public prosecutor Philippe Courroye told Reuters.

Bettencourt is battling to prove she is mentally competent after her daughter called for her to be made a ward of court. On Wednesday, she called for an audit into the companies managing her money.