Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been held by French police this morning following allegations that he received €50 million in illegal campaign contributions from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Nicolas Sarkozy questioned
Police began investigating possible wrongdoing connected to Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign in 2013, and today’s session marks the second time he has been brought in for questioning.
A former minister and adviser to Sarkozy, Brice Hortefeux, was also taken in for questioning today.
Brought down by those pesky journalists
Nicolas Sarozy’s problems began when investigative journalist website Mediapart published a document in 2012. It appeared to show the Ghadaffi regime had provided Sarkozy’s campaign with €50 million in illegal funding. The maximum donation allowed under French law is €7,500.
The letter, which was written in Arabic, and signed by Gaddafi’s foreign intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa, referred to a 2006 meeting attended by Hortefeux where the regime agreed to financially support Sarkozy’s campaign.
Speaking to Canal Plus at the time of the 2012 revelation, which was also during his reelection bid, Sarkozy said, “Who led the coalition to topple Gaddafi? It was France. I was perhaps the leader. Do you think that if Gaddafi had anything on me I would have tried to oust him?”
But the allegations have never gone away, and Mediapart’s allegations were not the only evidence of wrongdoing. Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam had previously mentioned the illegal contributions in a 2011 interview with the Euronews network, saying, “Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We funded it and we have all the details and are ready to reveal everything.”
What next for Sarkozy?
Under French law, police can only detain the former president for 48 hours. But even if he is released problems are mounting for Nicolas Sarkozy and his allies.
His 2012 reelection campaign is also under scrutiny for false accounting allegations, in scandal known to the French as the “Bygmalion affair.”
French officials are also seeking the extradition of Alexandre Djouhri, a French businessman who was arrested and released on bail in the UK in January. Djouhri is accused of having sold an abandoned villa to Gaddafi’s family in 2008 for roughly twice its €4.4 million value. Police think this was part of the effort by the Libyan regime to illegally support Sarkozy financially.