Nicolas Sarkozy: French ex-president says funding probe is ‘hell’

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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy says allegations he received campaign funding from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are making his life “hell”.

“I am accused without any physical evidence,” Mr Sarkozy told magistrates, Le Figaro newspaper reports.

He has been placed under formal investigation for illicit election campaign financing in 2007, misappropriation of Libyan public funds and passive corruption.

Mr Sarkozy, 63, denies any wrongdoing.

The centre-right politician, who was in police custody being questioned for two days this week, says his Libyan accusers are seeking vengeance for his decision to deploy French warplanes during the uprising which overthrew Gaddafi in 2011.

On Thursday, Le Figaro published what it said was the full court statement made by Mr Sarkozy to French investigators (in French).

In it, he says that he is aware the allegations against him are “serious”, but that they amount to “slander” and have made his life “hell” since 11 March 2011, when the claims were first made by Gaddafi.

Hammer blow for ex-leader

Analysis by Hugh Schofield, BBC News, Paris

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy enters his car as he leaves his house in Paris, 21 March 2018
Mr Sarkozy has been questioned in police custody

These accusations against Nicolas Sarkozy are in a different realm from all those other judicial problems that he has faced. The others are classic allegations of illegal party funding and abuse of influence.

This one is about taking money from a foreign dictator.

In each case, presumption of innocence has to prevail. Mr Sarkozy’s key argument is that he is the victim of a left-wing vendetta: judges out to get him.

On Libya, he points out that his accusers – henchmen of Gaddafi and sleazy middlemen – are not exactly paragons of veracity.

But the truth is that this is a hammer blow to the former president. The judges believe there are “serious and coherent” indications that he did indeed take money from the Libyans, and on that basis they will now conduct their investigation.

The implications are devastating. If the charges are true, then the whole story of Sarkozy’s presidency will have to be re-assessed. More importantly, what would it say about the French-led campaign to topple Gaddafi in 2011? A campaign in which the UK was persuaded by France to take part.

Big questions – if the charges are true. But don’t expect any quick answers. This case could drag on for years.


What is the Libya case about?

In 2013, France opened an investigation into allegations that Mr Sarkozy’s campaign had benefited from millions of euros of illicit funds from Gaddafi.

He failed in his bid to return to power in 2012, however, losing to Socialist candidate François Hollande.

The claims came from a French-Lebanese businessman, Ziad Takieddine, and some former Gaddafi regime officials.

In November 2016, Mr Takieddine told the French news website Mediapart that in 2006-2007 he had handed over three suitcases stuffed with 200- and 500-euro notes to Mr Sarkozy and Claude Guéant, who was his chief of staff.

Mr Takieddine alleged the cash came from Gaddafi and totalled €5m (£4.4m; $6.2m).

Mr Sarkozy was detained in 2014 in a separate investigation into alleged campaign funding abuses – the first time this has happened to a French ex-president.

Mr Guéant, who was managing Mr Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2007, told the franceinfo website on Tuesday that he had “never seen a penny of Libyan financing”.

He was placed under formal investigation earlier this year over a €500,000 bank transfer in 2008. He has denied wrongdoing and claimed the money came from the sale of two paintings.

Does Sarkozy face other charges?

Criminal proceedings have been launched against Mr Sarkozy in one other case of alleged illicit campaign financing.

It is alleged that he engaged in accounting fraud to overshoot the ceiling for campaign expenditure in 2012, which was €22.5m.

Mr Sarkozy denies he was aware of the overspending.

The affair is known as the Bygmalion scandal.

In connection with his 2007 campaign, Mr Sarkozy was previously cleared over claims that he had used secret funding from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and that he had tried to influence investigating magistrates.

Source :

BBC

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