Net Closes In On Sarkozy As Four key Players In Bettencourt scandal Are Arrested

"Four leading figures in the financial scandal enveloping French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s government were arrested yesterday. One of them was the society photographer Francois-Marie Banier, the ‘special friend’ of multimillionaire L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. She is accused of providing ‘envelopes full of cash’ to Mr Sarkozy and his ruling UMP Party. The government is, in turn, accused of having turned a blind eye to Mrs Bettencourt avoiding paying tax on her vast fortune. A criminal enquiry has been launched by Nanterre prosecutors. Today they ordered the arrest of Banier, who has also benefited massively from Mrs Bettencourt’s largesse. Banier has received close to a £1billion worth of ‘liquid cash’, old master paintings, insurance policies, and even an island in the Seychelles from the 87-year-old. Detectives from the Paris Financial Brigade swooped on Banier, along with Patrice de Maistre, Bettencourt’s financial advisor; her tax lawyer Fabrice Goguel; and Carlos Vejarano, the manager of the Island of Arros in the Seychelles which was given to Banier. All can initially be questioned for up to 48 hours, said a source close to the enquiry. ‘They are being held as part of an enquiry into alleged money laundering and financial fraud,’ the source added. On Monday night Mr Sarkozy went on live television to try and distance himself from what has become known in France as L’affaire Bettencourt. "