The former nurse of L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt has denied claims made in a new book that she reported seeing Nicolas Sarkozy receive envelopes stuffed with money at the home of the billionaire.

"/> The former nurse of L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt has denied claims made in a new book that she reported seeing Nicolas Sarkozy receive envelopes stuffed with money at the home of the billionaire.

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Bettencourt nurse denies Sarkozy took money

The former nurse of L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt has denied claims made in a new book that she reported seeing Nicolas Sarkozy receive envelopes stuffed with money at the home of the billionaire.

In an interview with weekly magazine Marianne, she also claimed she has been subjected to death threats since she gave evidence in an earlier case involving her former boss.

A new book, ‘Sarko Killed Me’, contains comments from a magistrate who was tasked with investigating the Bettencourt family dispute in 2010. 

She said that the former nurse told her clerk she had seen Sarkozy receiving money for his presidential election campaign in 2007.

“When I was interviewed by the magistrate Isabelle Prévost-Desprez, I didn’t talk about envelopes being handed to Nicolas Sarkozy, nor to anyone else,” she said. “I have nothing to hide and I’m an honest woman. I don’t want my comments to come back on me. This affair has already caused me enough worries.”

“I’ve received death threats,” she said. “I’ve been made to understand that as a result of my statement in the Banier-Bettencourt affair, my body will be found in the river Seine.”

The Banier-Bettencourt affair involved a charge from Liliane Bettencourt’s daughter, Françoise, that the billionaire’s close friend, photographer François-Marie Banier, had abused the 88-year-old’s frailty for financial gain. 

The former nurse’s comments followed a strongly-worded denial from the Elysée Palace on Wednesday, the official residence of the president, which called the claims “scandalous, unfounded and untrue.”

The president of Sarkozy’s UMP party, Jean-François Copé, supported the Elysée’s remarks, saying he was “profoundly shocked by these allegations.”

“The manner in which this has been said by Mrs Prévost-Desprez is bizarre, just a few months from the presidential elections,” he said. “This feels more political than anything else.”

Martine Aubry, who is campaigning to be the Socialist party’s presidential candidate, told RMC radio on Wednesday that while she didn’t understand why Prévost-Desprez hadn’t revealed this information earlier, she thought a new inquiry should be opened. 

“If there’s a new piece of information or an allegation that becomes public a new inquiry should take place,” she said. “That’s what we should expect in a country that’s democratic.”

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Leaders Sarkozy and Juppé stumble in race for Elysée

Right-wing candidates for the French presidential election face off in the first round of a US-style primary on Sunday with former president Nicolas Sarkozy and ex-prime minister Alain Juppe fighting to avoid being knocked out by an outsider.

Leaders Sarkozy and Juppé stumble in race for Elysée
Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo: AFP

In a contest overshadowed by the election of Donald Trump in the United States, support for the early favourite Juppe has slipped and Francois Fillon, who served as prime minister under Sarkozy, has risen fast.

The right-wing nominating contest is crucial because with the French left divided, the winner is expected to go on to take the presidency in May, beating far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the runoff.

Juppe, 71, entered the two-month-long contest with polls showing him to be France's most popular politician, but his approach of playing the moderate against the fiery Sarkozy and the conservative Fillon appears to be backfiring.

Most polls now show Juppe and Sarkozy are neck-and-neck at around 30 percent, with Fillon close behind after making striking progress in recent weeks.

The two winners on Sunday will go through to the second round run-off a week later.

Two becomes three

“We were expecting a duel but in the end a three-way contest has emerged,” political scientist Jerome Jaffre said in Le Figaro newspaper on Thursday.

Many have noted that 62-year-old Fillon's rise had coincided with the publication of his latest book entitled “Beating Islamic totalitarianism”.

An often confused final TV debate of the seven candidates on Thursday offered few clues about the possible outcome, although viewers polled afterwards said Fillon had performed the strongest.

Sparks flew when Sarkozy was asked about fresh claims that he received millions in funding from the late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi towards his 2007 campaign.

Sarkozy called the question “disgraceful” and refused to answer.

Turning to the Trump effect, the former president said a more isolationist America created “a fantastic opportunity for France and Europe to re-establish a leadership role” on issues including border security and the reform of the UN Security Council.

“The next five years will mark the return of France and Europe to the international scene. America won't be there to put us in the shade,” he said.

Juppe meanwhile said the Trump-era heralded a triple “shock” — in the areas of trade, defence and the environment.

A return to protectionism would be “a tremendous regression”, Juppe said, while warning Europe against being “naive” in its dealings with the United States.

The three leading candidates have similar programmes, underpinned by pledges to reinforce domestic security in a country still under a state of emergency following a series of jihadist attacks.

They also share a desire to reinforce European borders and reduce immigration, while tax cuts also loom large.

The choice will come down to style.

Sarkozy has emphasised his tough-guy credentials, saying it makes him a better choice to handle Trump than the mild-mannered Juppe.

Fillon, who is popular in the business world, has promised “radical” economic measures but is the most conservative of the three on social issues.

Another unknown factor in Sunday's first round is the number of left-wing voters prepared to pay two euros and sign a declaration that they subscribe to “the values of the centre and the right” to vote in the right-wing primary.

Those who do are expected to vote against 61-year-old Sarkozy, who remains a highly divisive figure in France four years after he left office.

When the right-wing candidate is chosen on November 27, it is expected to trigger an announcement from deeply unpopular Socialist President Francois Hollande on whether he intends to bid for re-election.

On Wednesday, Hollande's former economy minister Emmanuel Macron announced he would stand as an independent.

by AFP's Guy Jackson