PARIS – The legal problems of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy came on Friday as prosecutors said he was facing a new charge in a lengthy investigation into possible illegal Libyan funding of his 2007 presidential campaign.
This affair marked a major change in the renewed political aspirations of Mr Sarkozy, president from 2007 to 2012, and still backed by millions of French center-right voters. On Friday, after a new round of interrogations by investigating magistrates in Paris, prosecutors said Mr Sarkozy had been charged with criminal conspiracy, linking him to the actions of former aide Thierry Gober, accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in Libyan money through bank account of the Bahamas
So far, there is little concrete evidence of Mr Sarkozy’s guilt. But in 2016, French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takiedin, also accused of fleeing his conviction in a separate case, said he handed over nearly $ 6 million to Mr Sarkozy and his aide in late 2006 and early In 2007, investigators found that Mr Takieddine’s bank accounts were being fed by the regime of the now-dead Libyan strongman, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi.
It is unclear whether the new indictment brings Mr Sarkozy closer to a trial in the affair, which was first opened a year after his departure. On Friday, the former president, known for harsh talks about illegal immigrants, Islamic terrorism and crime, vigorously maintained his innocence.
“I learned about these new accusations with the greatest astonishment,” Mr Sarkozy wrote on Facebook on Friday. “Once again, my innocence has been trampled by a decision that does not contain the slightest evidence of any illegal funding,” he wrote.
In addition to the Libyan funding affair, Mr Sarkozy has been involved in two other cases in which he has been ordered to stand trial, one involving attempts to obtain confidential information from a judge and the other for exceeding restrictions on election campaign financing.
Despite his legal problems, Mr Sarkozy has managed to remain a force in center-right French politics. His advice is still sought after by many Republicans a political party whose transformation he designed, and even by President Emmanuel Macron. The French news media regularly report on contacts between the two men, and Mr Macron’s change of right in the second half of his presidency is largely due to Mr Sarkozy’s topics.
Aurelien Breeden starred in Aix-en-Provence, France.