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France: Ex-president Sarkozy says Gaddafi funding probe is 'hell'

BBC.COM
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, has denied 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.

One of Mr Sarkozy's former ministers and a close ally, Brice Hortefeux, was also reportedly questioned by police on Tuesday.

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.

"I have never sought to evade my obligations in my dealings with my friends, colleagues and all the people mentioned in these proceedings," Mr Sarkozy said, adding: "I have never sought to influence their statements or judgments."

What are the allegations in the Libya case?

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 François Hollande.

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

Mr Sarkozy was detained in

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

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 Guéant, who was managing Mr Sarkozy's presidential campaign at the time, 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.

French daily Le Monde reported that Bashir Saleh, who ran Libya's sovereign wealth fund at the time, had confirmed that Gaddafi had financed Mr Sarkozy.

Possible charges in this case would be influence peddling, fraud, handling of stolen goods and money laundering.

 

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.



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