Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was charged with corruption and illegal campaign financing yesterday over allegations that the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi helped fund his 2007 election campaign.
Sarkozy, 63, who led his country from 2007 to 2012 was taken into police custody early Tuesday morning and was being questioned by officers specialising in corruption, money laundering and tax evasion at their office in the western Parisian suburb of Nanterre.
The investigation involves funding for his 2007 president campaign.
The allegations have plagued Sarkozy ever since 2012, when the news website Mediapart published a document alleged to emanate from the former head of the Libyan secret services, promising Sarkozy some €50 million for his campaign.
Ziad Takieddine claimed he provided 1.5 to 2 million euros in 200-euro and 500-euro notes each time and was given the money by Gaddafi's military intelligence chief Abdallah Senussi. In addition, the alleged payments would violate French rules against foreign financing and requiring that the source of campaign funds be declared. According to the same source, he again proclaimed his innocence during his questioning.
In the French judicial system, preliminary charges mean Mr Sarkozy is personally under formal investigation in a criminal case.
The case drew heightened scrutiny in November 2016 when a Franco-Lebanese businessman admitted delivering three cash-stuffed suitcases from the Libyan leader in 2006 and 2007 as contributions towards Sarkozy's first presidential run.
But Sarkozy then put France in the forefront of the NATO-led airstrikes against Gadhafi's troops that helped rebel fighters topple Gadhafi's regime in 2011. An investigative judge decided in February 2017 to send him to trial on charges that he used false receipts to illegally exceed campaign-spending limits in his failed 2012 re-election bid. His lawyer, Thierry Herzog, did not respond to requests for comments.
Sarkozy's former top aide, the ex-minister Brice Hortefeux, was also questioned Tuesday, but not detained.
The allegations first emerged five years ago, but Takieddine's claims are potentially damaging because they come days before Sarkozy seeks the presidential nomination of the centre-right Les Républicains party. Sarkozy was interior minister at the time.
Acting out the scene, Takieddine says in the video: "It was a case like that".