Sarkozy says no evidence against him in Libya funding probe

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Paris, March 22 (IANS) Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday there is no evidence to support allegations that he illegally accepted money from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to finance his 2007 election campaign.

“I am accused without any physical evidence,” Sarkozy told magistrates, according to Le Figaro newspaper.

The 63-year-old former President was placed under formal investigation for the illicit election campaign financing, misappropriation of Libyan public funds and passive corruption. However, the leader of France from 2007 till 2012 denied any wrongdoing and said that the allegations were making his life “hell”.

The centre-right politician, who was in police custody being questioned for two days this week, said his Libyan accusers were seeking vengeance for his decision to deploy French warplanes during the uprising which overthrew Gaddafi in 2011, the BBC reported.

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Sarkozy said in a statement to the court said he was aware the allegations against him were “serious”, but that they amounted to “slander”. He was allowed home on Wednesday night under bail conditions.

The former President was also been placed under judicial supervision, a step investigators in France take to limit the movements of a suspect, CNN reported citing a source. It was not clear what specific restrictions were placed on him.

In July 2012, shortly after he was ousted from office by the Socialist François Hollande, police raided Sarkozy’s home as part of an investigation into alleged illegal assistance from L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt during the 2007 election campaign.

Those charges were dropped in 2013, but another investigation was opened the following year, and in February 2017 a judge ordered Sarkozy to face trial.

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That came after an embarrassing loss for Sarkozy as an attempt to return to frontline politics saw him finish third in the Republican party’s presidential primary.

Jean-Yves Dupeux, attorney for Brice Hortefeux — a former Interior Minister under Sarkozy who spent 15 hours on Tuesday being grilled by the same anti-corruption investigators — told the BFMTV channel that the police fired at least 200 questions at his client, who categorically denied that Sarkozy had benefited from Libyan campaign financing.

Sarkozy vehemently denied the allegations, including ones levelled by Ziad Takieddine, a French-Lebanese businessman and arms broker.

In November 2016, Takieddine told French news website Mediapart that he personally transported $6 million in cash from Tripoli to Paris and hand-delivered those funds to Sarkozy, the Interior Minister at the time, and to Claude Gueant.

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Gueant, who was the director of Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign, is also facing charges in the Libyan funding case.

Other evidence against Sarkozy included a document published in April 2012 by Mediapart and allegedly drafted in December 2006 by Moussa Koussa, the former head of Libya’s intelligence service.

That document, which Sarkozy called a “forgery”, pledged to provide 50 million euros for Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign.

France launched an investigation into the allegations the following year.

–IANS

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