French ex-pres­i­dent loses chal­lenge to cash-from-Libya case FASTFACT

Arab News - - News Internatio­nal - AFP Paris

Former French Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy lost his bid on Thurs­day to throw out an in­quiry into claims he used Libyan cash for his 2007 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, a rul­ing that could re­quire him and sev­eral as­so­ciates to stand trial.

A Paris ap­peals court up­held the va­lid­ity of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, launched in 2012 af­ter re­ports that Sarkozy ac­cepted mil­lions of eu­ros from the regime of former strong­man Muam­mar Qaddafi.

Sarkozy, 65, has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions. His lawyer de­clined to com­ment af­ter the hear­ing on whether he would ap­peal the de­ci­sion to France’s top crim­i­nal court.

But the failed le­gal chal­lenge means the in­quiry by two anti-cor­rup­tion judges can con­tinue, though it re­mains un­cer­tain if they will even­tu­ally seek a trial.

Sarkozy has been ac­cused by former mem­bers of Qaddafi’s regime that he took mil­lions from the slain Libyan dic­ta­tor, some of it de­liv­ered in cash-stuffed suit­cases, in his suc­cess­ful 2007 pres­i­den­tial run.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan af­ter the Me­di­a­part pub­lished a doc­u­ment in 2012, al­legedly signed by Libya’s in­tel­li­gence chief, pur­port­ing to show that Qaddafi agreed to give Sarkozy up to €50 mil­lion ($58 mil­lion at cur­rent ex­change rates).

Judges are also in­ves­ti­gat­ing claims by a French-Le­banese busi­ness­man,

Ziad Takied­dine, who said he de­liv­ered suit­cases car­ry­ing a to­tal of €5 mil­lion from the Libyan regime to Sarkozy’s chief of staff in 2006 and 2007.

Also charged in the case is Alexan­dre Djouhri, a busi­ness­man known to be close with sev­eral top right wing

Former French Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy was charged in 2018 with tak­ing bribes, con­ceal­ing the em­bez­zle­ment of Libyan public funds and il­le­gal cam­paign fi­nanc­ing. politi­cians, who is sus­pected of act­ing as a mid­dle­man for the cash trans­fers. The former pres­i­dent was charged in 2018 with tak­ing bribes, con­ceal­ing the em­bez­zle­ment of Libyan public funds and il­le­gal cam­paign fi­nanc­ing.

Two of his former min­is­ters, Claude Gueant and Eric Wo­erth, are among sev­eral oth­ers who have also been charged in the case. “I think the judges proved they were able to re­sist all sorts of pres­sure be­ing put on them,” said Vin­cent Bren­garth, a lawyer for the

Sherpa anti-cor­rup­tion NGO, one of the civil par­ties in the case.

The al­le­ga­tions that Sarkozy took money from Qaddafi — whom he wel­comed to Paris with pomp and cer­e­mony shortly af­ter his elec­tion vic­tory — are the most se­ri­ous to emerge from sev­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions that have dogged him since he left of­fice.

The claims first emerged in 2011, as France and Bri­tain were pre­par­ing a NATO-backed in­ter­ven­tion to sup­port rebels seek­ing to end Qaddafi’s tyran­ni­cal 41-year rule.

Be­sides the claims of cash-stuffed suit­cases, in­ves­ti­ga­tors sus­pect that Sarkozy’s cam­paign got cash from the 2009 sale of a villa on the French Riviera to a Libyan in­vest­ment fund man­aged by Bashir Saleh, Qaddafi’s former chief of staff.

Djouhri is sus­pected of be­ing the owner of the villa, which was sold at an in­flated price to mask the al­leged funds from Libya.

It is not the only le­gal headache for Sarkozy, who has en­joyed re­newed pop­u­lar­ity since re­tir­ing, with his mem­oirs see­ing strong sales.

He has also been charged in two other cases, one re­lat­ing to fake in­voices de­vised to mask over­spend­ing on his failed 2012 re­elec­tion cam­paign, and an­other for al­leged in­flu­ence ped­dling in­volv­ing a top judge. He is set to go on trial in the sec­ond case on Oct. 5, when he will be­come France’s first ex-pres­i­dent in the dock for cor­rup­tion.

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