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Updated: September 2, 2010 18:24 IST

French labour minister: “I’m not resigning”

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French labour minister Eric Woerth. File photo: AP.
French labour minister Eric Woerth. File photo: AP.

French Labour Minister Eric Woerth, at the centre of several criminal investigations, said on Tuesday he does not intend to resign.

“I have no problem of morale, of ethics. I have no intention of resigning,” Mr. Woerth told Europe 1 radio.

Mr. Woerth has been accused in recent weeks of accepting illegal political contributions, of closing an eye to the alleged tax evasions of L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and of using his influence as minister to land his wife a job with a firm managing part of Bettencourt’s fortune.

“I have been accused of every evil,” Mr. Woerth said. “Complete fantasies. I need to explain myself tranquilly.” He said he wanted to be called in to testify in the three different investigations in which he is concerned.

French media reported that the public prosecutor of Nanterre, outside Paris, Philippe Courroye, has made a request to be allowed to question Mr. Woerth.

According to the daily Le Figaro, the request must be approved by the cabinet of ministers at one of its weekly meetings.

On Tuesday, Mr. Woerth repeated his claim that he never had a hand in his wife being hired by Bettencourt’s personal money manager, Patrice de Maistre.

“I have never asked that my wife be hired,” he said. “I never did that in 25 years. She has no need of that. I have already said that 25,000 times.” However, Mr. Maistre has on at least two occasions said that Florence Woerth was hired after her husband, then budget minister, asked him to help.

According to extracts of police transcripts published by the daily Le Monde, Mr. Maistre told investigators last week that Mr. Woerth “asked me to see his wife and to try and advise her on her career, with which, he said, she was not entirely satisfied.” She was hired shortly thereafter.

In addition, on a secret recording made by Bettencourt’s former butler at her mansion, Mr. Maistre can be heard saying that he had hired Florence Woerth “as a favour” to her husband.

Ms. Florence Woerth earned 140,000 euros a year plus an annual bonus of 60,000 euros in the position, which she left in June after the affair was made public.

Mr. Woerth said his wife is also eager to tell investigators how and why she was hired.

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