Sarkozy charged over Libya cash
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been charged over a probe into whether his 2007 election campaign received €50 million in illegal funding from then Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who was lynched after French-spearheaded military action.
The allegations were first made by one of Gaddafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam, in 2011.
Magistrates in Nanterre near central Paris said they were placing Sarkozy, 63, under formal investigation for “passive” corruption, illegal electoral campaign funding and concealing Libyan public funds.
Judges questioned the diminutive former leader for 15 hours this week over claims that his campaign breached financing rules by accepting Gaddafi’s cash.
According to BFM TV, two of the charges carry maximum sentences of 10 years in prison and €150,000 fines.
Sarkozy denies wrongdoing.
He has previously dismissed the allegations as “grotesque” and a “manipulation”.
Ziad Takieddine, a French-Lebanese arms dealer who introduced Sarkozy to Gaddafi, told news website Mediapart in 2016 that he had carried three suitcases of cash from Libya to Paris and handed more than €5 million for Sarkozy’s campaign to his then chief of staff and subsequent interior minister, Claude Guéant in 2006 and 2007.
Guéant was charged in connection with the investigation this year over a €500,000 bank transfer in 2008. He denied accusations of money laundering and tax evasion, saying the money came from the sale of two paintings.
Takieddine was quoted saying in the Lebanese media this week that he acted as an intermediary between France and Libya while Sarkozy served as interior minister, before his election bid.
In January, UK police detained French tycoon Alexandre Djouhri at Heathrow Airport as part of the investigation into Sarkozy’s suspected Libyan financing. The arrest was executed “under a European arrest warrant” for fraud and money laundering, the police in London said.
After Sarkozy was elected in 2007, he lavishly received Gaddafi in Paris.
It was Gaddafi’s first state visit to a western capital in decades and he pitched a Bedouin-style tent near the Elysee Palace.
But Sarkozy then pioneered international military action against his regime in 2011 along with former UK prime minister David Cameron and US president Barack Obama, which led to Gaddafi’s death at the hands of a mob.
The Libyan probe is just one of several legal investigations have dogged Sarkozy since his one-term presidency ended in 2012. Investigators have recommended he face trial on separate charges of illegal financing for his ill-fated re-election campaign.
Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi (far right) and Nicolas Sarkozy (with Obama) at the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009. Picture credit: Wikimedia