الثلاثاء , مايو 18 2021

Sarkozy placed under investigation

Late on Tuesday, Mr Sarkozy was taken before a judge after 15 hours of police questioning

Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been placed under formal investigation over alleged influence peddling.

He appeared before a judge late on Tuesday, after presenting himself early that morning for police questioning, which lasted 15 hours.

This is thought to be the first time a former French head of state has been held in police custody.

Mr Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, was also placed under formal investigation as part of the same case.

A magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, also appeared before a judge.

When a suspect is placed under formal investigation, he or she is then examined by a judge, who determines whether there is sufficient evidence for the suspect to be charged.

Phone-bugging claim

The inquiry began when judges examined allegations that Mr Sarkozy had received illegal funding for his re-election campaign from the former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

Mr Sarkozy is hoping to challenge again for the presidency in 2017 and the inquiry is seen as a blow to his hopes of returning to office.

Investigators are trying to find out whether Mr Sarkozy, 59, who was president from 2007 to 2012, had promised a prestigious role in Monaco to Mr Azibert, in exchange for information about an investigation into alleged illegal campaign funding.

They are looking into claims that Mr Sarkozy was warned his phone was being bugged as part of the funding probe.

Mr Azibert, one of the most senior judges at the court of appeal, was called in for questioning on Monday as was another judge, Patrick Sassoust.

Mr Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was given a suspended prison sentence in 2011 for embezzlement and breach of trust while he was mayor of Paris. But he was never questioned in custody.

Lawyer Thierry Herzog (l) and magistrate Gilbert Azibert (r) are being investigated along with Mr Sarkozy (c)

Analysis: The BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris

Mr Sarkozy is a step closer to coming to trial. The judges investigating this have decided that there is a case to answer although a trial is not inevitable. It does mean that there is a much bigger, darker cloud of suspicion hanging over him.

Worried by the prying of investigators into claims of illegal party fund-raising, it is alleged that Mr Sarkozy used a judge as point-man in the High Court of Appeal to tell him how proceedings against him were progressing. More serious is whether this judge tried to influence decisions in Mr Sarkozy’s favour.

Mr Sarkozy’s supporters accuse the investigators of themselves being politically influenced – by the ruling left. How come, they ask, that every time Mr Sarkozy makes a move back towards political life, the media are fed a new twist in the investigations? One side says it is dogged police work. The other says it is harassment.

Sarkozy detention raises ‘plot’ suspicions

Diaries

An investigation was launched in February into whether Mr Sarkozy had sought inside information about the inquiry into his 2007 election campaign funding.

It has been claimed that late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi helped fund the campaign.

It is alleged that Mr Sarkozy was kept informed of proceedings against him while a decision was made over whether his work diaries – seized as part of the funding inquiry – should be kept in the hands of the justice system.

The Court of Cassation ruled in March 2014 that the diaries should not be returned.

Investigators believe the former president was tipped off that his phone was being bugged as part of the inquiry.

Mr Sarkozy insists the allegations against him are politically motivated.

But the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris says it is clear they represent another obstacle in the way of his planned return to frontline French politics.

The former president is seeking to regain the leadership of the centre-right UMP party later this year.

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