French President Nicolas Sarkozy has dismissed claims that his presidential campaign received 150,000 euros (£124,000) in illegal party financing.
He was responding to allegations reportedly made by a former accountant of L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. The accountant, who prosecutors have questioned, told the website Mediapart the cash had been channelled through Eric Woerth, now budget minister, BBC News informs.
Identified only as Claire T, the bookkeeper said it was a common practice for envelopes stuffed with euros, sometimes to the value of £160,000, to be handed to conservative politicians calling at the villa of Mrs Bettencourt, 87, and her late husband, Andre, in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.
'Politicians were constantly marching through the house, especially at election time,' she told the Mediapart news website. 'Dede (Andre Bettencourt) was a big giver. They all came to pick up their envelopes.'
Claire T claimed Mr Sarkozy, then mayor of Neuilly, was a regular caller at the house between 1998 and 2002, Daily Mail reports.