Sarkozy denies taking undeclared cash from L’Oreal heiress

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s has denied taking undeclared campaign cash from the heiress to the L’Oreal cosmetics fortune five years ago.

Mr Sarkozy’s allies suggested the accusations are a campaign ploy against the unpopular president in the run-up to the next election. Similar accusations first surfaced last year.

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Critics have long deemed the conservative leader was too cosy with the rich, criticism that carries particular sting now that the French economy is stalling and many of his supporters are disillusioned with his leadership.

The leader of France’s main opposition party, Socialist Martine Aubry, called for a new investigation into whether Mr Sarkozy received illegal campaign cash from Liliane Bettencourt.

Her accountant said a year ago that she gave 50,000 euros (£44,000) in cash in 2007 to Mr Sarkozy’s party treasurer for the presidential campaign – well beyond the legal limit in France. A new book by investigating judge Isabelle Prevost-Desprez suggests witnesses told her off the record that Mr Sarkozy himself received undeclared campaign money.