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Sarkozy: 'Justice has declared me innocent'

The Local/AFP · 7 Oct 2013, 19:10

Published: 07 Oct 2013 19:10 GMT+02:00

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French judges on Monday dropped corruption charges against former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, linked to the financing of his successful 2007 election campaign.

Sarkozy had been charged in March with "abuse of a weakness" in relation to allegations he accepted funds from France's richest woman, L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, when she was allegedly too frail to know what she was doing. 

Investigators suspected up to €4 million of Bettencourt's cash subsequently made its way into the coffers of Sarkozy's UMP party.

However, Sud Ouest newspaper reported on Monday that judges had decided to drop the charges because they were too "tenuous." 

Confirmation of the decision then came from Sarkozy himself via his Facebook page as he took the opportunity to slam his critics and thank his supporters.

"In dropping the charges, the justice system has declared me innocent," Sarkozy wrote.

"For the politicians who, during these months, have used this 'affair' and contributed to increasing suspicion, I want to remind them how the presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle. We can never win by slandering people. It only harms democracy", he said. 

Sarkozy also thanked "my wife, my family, my friends, my party and particularly its president Jean -Francois Copé, and above all French people, whose loyalty moved me."

The decision to drop the charges could clear the way for Sarkozy to return to frontline politics in time for the 2017 presidential election.

If it is confirmed the charges have indeed been sidelined, it would appear to mark the end of a long-running saga that has at times threatened to see the former president end up on trial. 

Only last month, the prospect that Sarkozy would end up in court appeared strong after a French appeals court threw out his last-ditch bid to have the charges dropped. 

Judges Jean-Michel Gentil and Valérie Noël accepted the opinion of prosecutors in the case, who back in June had called for the charges to be dropped. 

Sarkozy lost immunity from prosecution when he was defeated in the 2012 presidential election by Socialist François Hollande.

Sarkozy, 58, has always maintained that he visited Bettencourt's residence only once during the campaign, to meet her late husband. Members of the multi-billionaire's staff have, however, contradicted his version of events.

The decision to drop the charges could clear the way for Sarkozy to return to frontline politics in time for the 2017 presidential election.

However, he is facing a separate investigation over allegations that he accepted up to €50 million ($65 million) in cash from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi for the 2007 campaign.

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The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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