Ex-president Sarkozy detained in French corruption probe linked to campaign funding

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was in police custody Tuesday, apparently under questioning in an investigation linked to allegations that he took $50 million in illegal campaign funds from Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.

PARIS — Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was in police custody Tuesday, apparently under questioning in an investigation linked to allegations that he took $50 million in illegal campaign funds from Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.

But will the shocking detention and sordid case torpedo Sarkozy’s chances at a presidential comeback?

Maybe not.

Sarkozy, a political survivor who’s been touring the world with his pop singer wife, is still among the most popular politicians in France despite a pile of investigations that target him.

The 59-year-old hasn’t been convicted of anything and remains well-known on the international stage. And he may be his troubled conservative party’s best chance to regain the presidency in 2017, after losing it to Socialist Francois Hollande in 2012.

A judicial official said Sarkozy was detained for questioning Tuesday at the headquarters of the judicial police in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. The official, who was not authorized to be publicly named while discussing an ongoing investigation, would not elaborate. French police, prosecutors and other judicial officials would not provide any details.

Sarkozy could be held up to 24 hours, which could be extended for another day. After the questioning, he could be released without charge, named as a witness in the case or handed preliminary charges.

French media reports say Sarkozy is being questioned in an investigation linked to financing for his 2007 presidential campaign, notably allegations that late Libyan leader Gadhafi gave Sarkozy illegal campaign donations.

The French daily Le Monde, which has covered the case closely, says the questioning centres around whether Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, were kept informed about the investigation by a friendly magistrate, Gilbert Azibert.

Herzog and Azibert were also held for questioning Tuesday.

Sarkozy and Herzog have denied wrongdoing. Azibert’s lawyer told reporters he hoped the detention would be over by the evening.

Investigators are basing suspicions at least in part on taped phone conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer. The taping raised questions about the limits between investigative needs and individual privacy, particularly lawyer-client privilege. Sarkozy has compared the situation to actions by the secret police in the old East Germany.

Allies from Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party — which has been in a leadership crisis — jumped to the former president’s defence.

“They have never imposed such treatment on a former president, with such a surge of hate,” lawmaker Christian Estrosi tweeted.

Former French President Jacques Chirac was convicted in a corruption case in 2011 after he left office, but when he was questioned he was not held in police custody.

The Socialist government tried to stay above the fray.

“Justice officials are investigating, they should carry out the task to the end. Nicolas Sarkozy is a citizen answerable to justice like any other,” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said on i-Tele television.

Political scientist Thomas Guenole said it’s too early to draw conclusions about Sarkozy’s political future.

“Nicolas Sarkozy has often been pronounced politically dead over the last two years because he was implicated in political-judicial affairs … And he has always emerged,” Guenole said.

He described an “immense love” for Sarkozy amid hard-core members of his party, who view the investigations against Sarkozy as politically driven.

Sarkozy was handed preliminary charges in another investigation into whether he illegally took campaign donations from France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. Those charges were later dropped.

In a separate case, relatives of French victims of a deadly 2002 bombing in Pakistan filed a complaint in Paris last year against Sarkozy and two former advisers for allegedly violating a duty to secrecy in the investigation of the case.

Judges are also investigating funding for his failed 2012 election bid, amid reports that false accounting was used to cover campaign expenses that had surpassed the legal limit. Sarkozy’s camp says he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

Despite all this, opinion polls show him in a strong potential position for 2017 election. Hollande won the presidency in 2012 on so far unfulfilled promises to boost jobs and the economy, but his popularity has lagged at record lows for much of his term.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta Health Services apologizes after seniors struggle to book vaccine appointments

The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Kyle Moore, 26, will be a houseguest on Season 9 of Big Brother Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Brother Canada)
Red Deer man will be a houseguest on Big Brother Canada

A Red Deer man will be a houseguest on the upcoming season… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mason Ward battles with a Medicine Hat Tigers’ forward during the WHL Central Division season opener. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers come back to spoil Red Deer Rebels home opener

It’s been nearly 345 days since the Red Deer Rebels last played… Continue reading

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (34) falls on his knees as he skates around Ottawa Senators defenceman Artem Zub (2) during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, February 18, 2021. The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews when they take on the Edmonton Oilers Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto star Auston Matthews won’t play as Leafs face Oilers

EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Wetaskiwin RCMP say a Maskwacis man died after he was struck by a vehicle. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Clare’s Law in Saskatchewan used handful of times; Mounties review their role

REGINA — A first-of-its-kind law in Canada meant to warn those at… Continue reading

The Magpie river in Quebec is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Boreal River MANDATORY CREDIT
Quebec river granted legal rights as part of global ‘personhood’ movement

MONTREAL — With its kilometres of rapids and deep blue waters winding… Continue reading

Thorough sanding of a table top is usually the first step to renewing a finish. Wax contaminants can sometimes still remain on a surface like this after sanding. Cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a rag gets rid of these contaminants without leaving a residue behind. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)
Houseworks: Fixing wood finishes

Q: How can I stop polyurethane from beading up on a mahogany… Continue reading

Most Read