France’s former president is alleged to have accepted Gaddafi donations to finance his election campaign. He himself continues to deny this.
Must now face a preliminary investigation: Nicolas Sarkozy Photo: dpa
At the end of their two-day questioning in police custody, three French investigating judges opened a judicial investigation against former President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday evening. This is the logical step in the procedure that is likely to result in an official indictment for illegal election financing, passive bribery and embezzlement of public funds.
The three investigating judges concluded that they had sufficient incriminating evidence to consider the suspicion of clandestine and illegal financing of Sarkozy’s election campaign in 2007 to be well-founded. It is the second judicial affair in which Sarkozy faces trial.
Even a passionate and long plea on his own behalf at the end did not help him this time. The ex-president had a few quotes published in the newspaper Le Figaro. Since 2011, he complains, his "life has been made hell" because of this story about alleged election donations from former Libyan strongman Muammar al-Gaddafi. He denies having received any money from him. Those who claim to have received money are lying. Gaddafi and his clan" are behind the unfounded accusations.
Above all, what the French-Lebanese mediator Ziad Takieddine says is untrue. He had testified that he had personally transported five million euros from Tripoli on three trips to provide financial support for Sarkozy’s election campaign. It was not so long ago that Takieddine, who is also being prosecuted by the judiciary in this affair, was a trusted associate for Sarkozy. He was instrumental in the spectacular rapprochement between France and Libya between 20, and had engineered the friendship between Sarkozy and Gaddafi at the time. Now this ex-confidante is his worst enemy. Unfortunately for the ex-"blingbling" president, Takieddine is not the only one testifying against him.
Because the mere protestation of innocence was not enough for the investigators to possibly let him go, Sarkozy also brought his own intelligence into play: "Do you think I would be so stupid and crazy to attack of all people the one (dictator) who is supposed to have financed me, if I had even the slightest thing to reproach myself with?" That he first took money from the dictator and four years later started a war to overthrow him seems an absurd notion to him. Not so, apparently, for the investigators, for whom political contradictions and shifting interests play no role. Even some inconsistencies in the chronology of the incriminating statements cited by Sarkozy’s lawyers hardly raised serious doubts in their minds.
The fact that an ex-head of state has to make himself available to the judiciary in this way has never happened before in France.
Sarkozy was allowed to leave the offices of the anti-corruption brigade in Nanterre near Paris on Wednesday evening, but he must undergo a police check, the details of which are not known. This could mean, for example, that he is not allowed to see certain people who are also involved – such as his ex-interior ministers and party colleagues Brice Hortefeux and Claude Gueant – or that he is not allowed to leave the country. The fact that an ex-head of state has to make himself available to the judiciary in this way has never happened before in France. The procedure before a court hearing can take a long time. It is known from other investigations against Sarkozy that his lawyers are likely to use all possibilities of appeal.