French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy rejects ‘mad allegations’ of corruption

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Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has defended himself against the “mad allegations” that he accepted millions of euros in illegal campaign funding from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

“It’s an ignominious act, not (just) a lie,” Sarkozy said during a live television interview. “I owe the French people the truth: I never betrayed their trust.”

The one-term ex-leader was handed preliminary charges on Wednesday in an investigation of his successful 2007 campaign for the French presidency.

The charges include illegally funding the campaign, passive corruption and receiving money from Libyan embezzlement.

Nicolas Sarkozy is driven away from the police station in Nanterre (Francois Mori/AP)
Sarkozy is driven away from the police station in Nanterre (Francois Mori/AP)

He was detained and questioned by anti-corruption police before he was given the preliminary charges by judges leading the probe.

Le Figaro newspaper reported on Thursday that Sarkozy said in his statement to the investigating judges that “I am accused without any physical evidence”.

He said he was “living the hell of this slander” since 2011 and denounced the accusations as lies, according to a text of the statement published by the newspaper. The allegations were first made in 2011 by Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam.

According to the text, the former president told investigators that the allegations even cost him a re-election bid in 2012 when they emerged during the campaign.

Investigators are examining allegations that Gaddafi’s regime secretly gave Sarkozy 50 million euros for his 2007 presidential election bid.

The former president was released on Wednesday night but placed under judicial supervision.

As France’s president from 2007 to 2012, Sarkozy put France in the forefront of the Nato-led airstrikes against Gaddafi’s troops that helped rebel fighters topple Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.

An investigation has been under way since 2013 into the case.

It 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 in cash to Sarkozy and his former chief of staff, Claude Gueant.

Mr Takieddine repeated his allegations during a live interview with France’s BFM TV on Wednesday night.

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