French ex-Prez Sarkozy held in Libya funding probe

Ex-French President Sarkozy Reportedly Held by Police Over Campaign Financing

Ex-French President Sarkozy Reportedly Held by Police Over Campaign Financing

Sarkozy, who came under fire for giving Gaddafi a red-carpet reception in Paris in late 2007, said his problems began in March 2011 after he hosted Libyan rebels and went on to become one of the main advocates of a NATO-led campaign that resulted in the dictator's overthrow and killing by rebels in 2011.

The investigation appeared to accelerate after Ziad Takieddine, a wealthy French-Lebanese businessman who was close to Gaddafi's regime, told Mediapart in 2016 that he had personally delivered suitcases stuffed with cash from the Libyan leader as payments towards Sarkozy's campaign.

Brice Hortefeux, who served as Mr Sarkozy's interior minister, was also questioned over the allegations, although he was not placed under arrest.

The former president, 63, was allowed home at midnight on Tuesday but had to return to police custody at 8am on Wednesday.

Sarkozy and his former chief of staff have denied wrongdoing in the case, which involves funding for his winning 2007 presidential campaign.

After retiring from politics following his 2012 defeat by the Socialist Party's Francois Hollande, Sarkozy returned to take the helm of the Republicans 2015 and sought the party's approval to be their candidate for 2017 presidential election. He has in the past dismissed the allegations as "grotesque" and described them as a "manipulation". Under Gaddafi, Libya was a wealthy country because of its oil resources but was isolated in global diplomacy. Sarkozy has appealed that ruling, but clearly these charges are an order of magnitude more critical for the former president and for France.

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Takieddine has for years been embroiled in his own problems with French justice, centring mainly on allegations he provided illegal funds to the campaign of conservative politician Edouard Balladur for his 1995 presidential election campaign - via commissions from the sale of French submarines to Pakistan. Such a sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit at the time of €21 million (NZ$36 million).

The two-day questioning is the first time Sarkozy has faced police in the case.

Sarkozy had a complex relationship with Gaddafi.

The allegations first emerged after he spearheaded an worldwide military campaign to topple the Libyan regime in 2011.

"There's not even the smallest inkling of proof", Sarkozy, visibly upset, said in a 25-minute evening news interview.

A judge has already ordered Sarkozy to stand trial in a separate campaign finance case stemming from his failed re-election campaign in 2012.

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