Paris: Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was handed preliminary charges on Wednesday over allegations he accepted millions of euros in illegal campaign funding from the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
A judicial official told AP that investigative judges overseeing the probe gave the ex-president charges of illegally funding his 2007 winning campaign, passive corruption and receiving money from Libyan embezzlement. The person was not authorised to speak publicly about the case.
The charges came after Sarkozy was detained for two days of questioning by anti-corruption police at a station in Nanterre, northwest of the French capital.
Sarkozy, 63, who was France's president from 2007-12, has repeatedly and vehemently denied any wrongdoing. An investigation involving funding for his winning 2007 presidential campaign first was launched in 2013. Investigators are examining claims that Gaddafi's regime secretly gave the politician 50 million euros overall for his campaign.
The sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit at the time — 21 million euros. In addition, the alleged payments would violate French rules against foreign financing and requiring that the source of campaign funds be declared. His lawyer, Thierry Herzog, did not respond to requests for comment.
Sarkozy's former top aide, the ex-minister Brice Hortefeux, was also questioned Tuesday, but not detained. He said on Twitter that the details he gave investigators "should help put an end to a series of mistakes and lies."
The investigation got a boost when French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine told the online investigative site Mediapart in 2016 that he delivered suitcases from Libya containing 5 million euros ($6.2 million) in cash to Sarkozy and his former chief of staff, Claude Gueant.
Takieddine repeated his allegations during a live interview with France's BFM TV on Wednesday night.
He claimed he personally handed a suitcase containing 2 million euros (about $2.5 million) in cash to Sarkozy at the then-candidate's apartment and another suitcase with 1.5 million euros (about $1.9 million) to Sarkozy and a close aide at the French Interior Ministry. Sarkozy was interior minister at the time.
Takieddine alleged he gave a third suitcase with 1.5 million euros in cash to the aide alone. He said the money was not meant to finance Sarkozy's presidential campaign in 2007, but to honour contracts between France and Libya.
Updated Date: Mar 22, 2018 08:03 AM