PARIS — Media is abuzz that France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy is being held for questioning over concerns that he obtained leaked details of an investigation into alleged anomalies in his 2007 campaign funding.
The criminal investigation about whether he exploited the frailty of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt to fund that campaign was dismissed in October 2013. However, it’s reported that as investigators used phone taps to look into separate allegations that Muammar Gaddafi, the late Libyan leader, funded the same campaign, they started suspecting Sarkozy had kept tabs on the Bettencourt case through informants, as well. This prompted the formal launch in February of an investigation into influence-peddling.
Sarkozy — the first French former head of state to be held for questioning in modern history — can be detained for up to 48 hours, it was reported.
It marks another blow to his hopes of a presidential comeback.
The Bettencourt saga began in December 2007, when Bettencourt’s daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, brought a lawsuit against the photographer François-Marie Banier. She alleged he exploited the weakness of her mother, who gave him assets valued at about 1 billion euros, or $1.37 billion at current exchange.
The family affair has subsequently taken innumerable twists and turns, blossoming into an affair of state.
Ten people will be tried in the ongoing saga by a Bordeaux, France-based criminal court starting on Jan. 26.
Among those to be judged in the trial, expected to last between four and five weeks, are Eric Woerth, France’s former budget minister; Patrice de Maistre, a past financial advisor to Bettencourt; Pascal Wilhelm, who had once overseen Bettencourt’s affairs, and Banier.