TIMELINE-France's Bettencourt affair

Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:15am EDT

Aug 31 (Reuters) - Here is a timeline of France's Bettencourt affair, which first surfaced as a family feud between L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and her daughter and exploded into a series of investigations concerning political donations, suspected tax evasion and money laundering.

Late 2007 - Francoise Meyers-Bettencourt, the daughter of L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, files a criminal complaint against photographer and socialite Francois-Marie Banier. She accuses him of taking advantage of her mother's frailty after Bettencourt showered him with gifts worth about 1 billion euros. Banier denies any wrongdoing.

Dec 2009 - The daughter launches a civil lawsuit to have Bettencourt declared legally irresponsible.

June 16, 2010 - Secret recordings of conversations between Bettencourt and her wealth manager, taped by Bettencourt's former butler, are passed to the police by her daughter. Media reports say the transcripts refer to undeclared holdings in the Seychelles and Switzerland, and to campaign donations made to members of the ruling centre-right UMP party, including Labour Minister Eric Woerth, the party's treasurer.

June 17 - Woerth says he did not procure a job for his wife, Florence, at the firm that manages the heiress' fortune, and denies having received money from Bettencourt.

June 21 - Woerth announces his wife will step down from her role at the wealth management company. Bettencourt says she will work with authorities to bring her overseas assets into line.

June 28 - Florence Woerth says she underestimated the extent of the conflict of interest posed by her role and her husband's previous position as budget minister.

July 1 - The trial of Banier opens and is quickly adjourned to give police time to investigate the secret recordings.

July 5 - Two junior ministers embroiled in expenses scandals stand down in a rare double resignation. Analysts see it as an unsuccessful attempt to draw attention away from Woerth.

July 6 - A former bookkeeper for Bettencourt alleges in a media interview that French President Nicolas Sarkozy's party received illegal campaign donations in cash from the heiress and her late husband. The president's office and Woerth swiftly deny the allegations. Two days later Claire Thibout says she routinely drew cash to be given to conservative politicians but denies naming Sarkozy as a direct recipient.

July 9 - Police raid Bettencourt's wealth manager's office.

July 11 - The budget ministry says tax inspectors clear Woerth of interfering in the tax affairs of Bettencourt.

July 12 - Police search homes of Banier and Bettencourt. Sarkozy says Woerth has been exonerated of any wrongdoing and has his full confidence. Sarkozy also urges the minister to step down as treasurer of ruling UMP party which he does on July 13.

July 15 - Police detain four people close to Bettencourt for questioning about suspected tax evasion and money laundering. The four - Banier, Patrice de Maistre, her wealth manager, Fabrice Goguel, her tax lawyer, and Carlos Vejarano, the manager of a property in the Seychelles - are all freed the next day.

July 21 - Police question Florence Woerth on how she came to work for a firm managing the Bettencourt fortune.

July 26 - Police question Bettencourt about two undeclared Swiss bank accounts and her involvement in a Seychelles island.

-- Bettencourt has acknowledged the existence of the Swiss accounts and says she will repatriate the 78 million euros ($100 million) held in them and settle up with the tax authorities.

Sept 2 - Woerth acknowledges intervening in favour of Patrice de Maistre receiving the Legion d'Honneur title.

Sept 20 - L'Oreal says it has ended its relationship with photographer Francois-Marie Banier.

Nov 14 -- Woerth is dropped from the government in a reshuffle, amid the allegations of illegal financing and of influence-peddling on behalf of Bettencourt.

-- Woerth has denied any wrongdoing and Bettencourt has said she had no memory of giving him money.

Nov 17 - Judge Isabelle Prevost-Desprez is taken off the case and responsibility for the investigations is transferred to three judges in Bordeaux.

Dec 6 - Liliane Bettencourt and her daughter say they have settled the family feud which sparked the tax and party funding investigations. Francoise Meyers-Bettencourt agrees to drop charges against Banier.

-- Investigations continue in Bordeaux into allegations of influence-peddling by Eric Woerth and suspected illegal party funding.

Jun 8 -- Francoise Meyers-Bettencourt files a new request to have her mother placed under guardianship, reviving their family feud.

Aug 31, 2011 - Sarkozy's office denies allegations that he was handed cash by Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 election campaign. The assertions, printed in the daily Liberation, are made in a book, "Sarkozy Killed Me", to be published on Sept. 1. (Reporting by Victoria Bryan and David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit))