Published: 22 Nov 2012 17:45 GMT+01:00 | Print version
Updated: 22 Nov 2012 17:45 GMT+01:00
Nicolas Sarkozy appears in front of a judge on Thursday over charges that his 2007 electoral campaign was illegally financed by France's richest woman. But the Bettencourt hearing is just one of a number of legal problems facing France's ex-president.
France's ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy appeared before a judge Thursday to respond to charges that his 2007 electoral campaign was financed with funds secured illegally from France's richest woman.
Sarkozy, who lost his immunity from prosecution after losing the presidential election to Socialist Francois Hollande in May, is facing a slew of legal inquiries. Among them:
Thursday's questioning is over suspicions Sarkozy took financial advantage of elderly L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt when she was too frail to fully understand what she was doing.
The allegation is two-fold: that the money obtained from her took his campaign financing over legal limits and that it had been secured without her full knowledge or consent.
This latter claim was made by Bettencourt's former accountant, Claire Thibout in 2010. She told police that she had handed envelopes stuffed with cash to Bettencourt's right-hand man, Patrice de Maistre, to be passed on to Sarkozy's campaign treasurer, Eric Woerth, who has since been charged with receiving illicit funds.
Maistre withdrew a total of four million euros in cash from Bettencourt's Swiss bank account in seven instalments between 2007 and 2009.
Bettencourt is now 90 and has been in poor health since 2006.
In connection with the Bettencourt scandal, Sarkozy and his camp have been accused of ordering an illegal police investigation to identify an official leaking information on the Bettencourt scandal to a journalist from newspaper Le Monde.
Judges have charged both a prosecutor close to Sarkozy and the head of France's domestic intelligence agency, Bernard Squarcini, with having illegally obtained the journalist's mobile phone logs in 2010.
The 'Karachi' affair
Two close aides to Sarkozy have been charged by judges investigating alleged kickbacks on a Pakistani arms deal.
The case dates back to Sarkozy's time as budget minister, when he allegedly authorised the creation of a shell company used to channel kickbacks to then prime minister Edouard Balladur's unsuccessful 1995 presidential bid.
In more serious but harder to prove allegations, magistrates are also probing whether a 2002 Karachi bombing that killed 11 French engineers was revenge for the cancellation of bribes secretly promised to Pakistani officials.
French authorities confirmed this week they have also opened a preliminary investigation over the management of opinion polls carried out during Sarkozy's 2007-12 term as president.
The probe was triggered by anti-graft organisation Anticor, which suspects the ex-president of having handed the contract for the polls to a company, Publifact, run by his former advisor Patrick Buisson, and of using public funds to carry out his own party political electoral research.
Cash from Qaddafi?
Claims were also made during this year's election campaign that former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi's regime financed Sarkozy's 2007 campaign to the tune of €50 million, but no investigation has been opened.
Sarkozy is pursuing a defamation suit against online news website Mediapart over its reporting of the allegations.
An angry Chinese film producer, had some harsh words to say about France this week, suggesting the country had a problem with public safety and arrogance after being the victim of a burglary at the Cannes Film Festival. READ () »
A proposal to introduce more courses in English and other foreign languages at French universities is set to be debated in parliament from Wednesday amid concerns it will undermine the country's soul and identity. READ () »
A 48-year-old divorced Briton locked in a bitter custody battle confessed on Sunday that he had killed his two young children by slitting their throats near the eastern French city of Lyon. READ () »
As Carlo Ancelotti paid fulsome tribute to the retiring David Beckham the Paris Saint Germain manager revealed an announcement on his own future may be imminent. READ () »
France's disgraced former budget minister, forced out of office over a tax fraud scandal, will not seek re-election to his former parliamentary seat, a newspaper reported Sunday. READ () »
Spain's world championship leader Marc Marquez will start on pole in Sunday's French MotoGP on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans after coming out on top in Saturday's qualifying. READ () »
A man was arrested on Friday after causing a scare at the Cannes Film Festival, where he attacked a TV studio with a gun loaded with blanks and a dummy grenade, police and witnesses said. READ () »
French actor and newly-minted Russian citizen Gerard Depardieu on Saturday compared President Vladimir Putin to the late Pope John Paul II and said the ex-KGB agent is what Russia needs as a leader. READ () »
France became the 14th country to legalise same-sex marriage Saturday after President Francois Hollande signed the measure into law following months of bitter political debate. READ () »
Struggling French oyster farmers, whose haul has diminished in recent years, are set to receive some much needed help from their Swedish counterparts, by importing oyster spats from Sweden for the first time. READ () »