Ex-French president Sarkozy held on Qaddafi claims

Muammar Qaddafi receives Nicolas Sarkozy in Tripoli in 2007. French investigators are examining claims that Qaddafi’s regime secretly gave Sarkozy €50 million for his 2007 presidential campaign. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Ex-French president Sarkozy held on Qaddafi claims

PARIS: Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was placed in custody on Tuesday as part of an investigation into allegations he received millions of euros in illegal campaign financing from the regime of the late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
A judicial source with direct knowledge of the case told The Associated Press that Sarkozy was being held at the Nanterre police station, north-west of Paris. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Sarkozy has vehemently and repeatedly denied wrongdoing in the case, which involves funding for his winning 2007 presidential campaign.
Though an investigation has been underway since 2013, the case gained traction some three years later when French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine told the online investigative site, Mediapart, that he delivered suitcases from Libya containing €5 million ($6.2 million) in cash to Sarkozy and his former chief of staff Claude Gueant.
A lawyer for Sarkozy, 63, did not immediately respond to a message from the AP seeking comment.
Investigators are examining claims that Qaddafi’s regime secretly gave Sarkozy €50 million overall for the 2007 campaign. Such a sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit at the time of €21 million. In addition, the alleged payments would violate French rules against foreign financing and declaring the source of campaign funds.
A former top aide of Sarkozy, former minister Brice Hortefeux, was reportedly questioned on Tuesday but was not detained. Sarkozy can be held up to 48 hours and could be placed under formal investigation after his hearing.
In the Mediapart interview published in November 2016, Takieddine said he was given €5 million in Tripoli by Qaddafi’s intelligence chief on trips in late 2006 and 2007 and that he gave the money in suitcases full of cash to Sarkozy and Gueant on three occasions. He said the handovers took place in the Interior Ministry, while Sarkozy was interior minister.
Takieddine has for years been embroiled in his own problems with French justice, centering mainly on allegations he provided illegal funds to the campaign of conservative politician Edouard Balladur for his 1995 presidential election campaign — via commissions from the sale of French submarines to Pakistan.
Takieddine made his accusations at a time when Sarkozy was taking part in the presidential elections’ primary to be the candidate of the right-wing party The Republicans. Sarkozy lost in the first round, ending third behind Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe.
Fillon’s own campaign was destroyed by corruption allegations. The former front-runner in the presidential race was charged over the allegations and he suffered a big loss in a vote won by Emmanuel Macron.
According to Le Monde newspaper, investigators have recently handed to magistrates a report in which they detailed how cash circulated within Sarkozy’s campaign team.
In January, a French businessman suspected of playing a role in the financing scheme, Alexandre Djouhri, was arrested in London on a warrant issued by France “for offenses of fraud and money laundering.” Le Monde said French investigators are also in possession of several documents seized at his home in Switzerland.
Sarkozy, who was president from 2007-12, had a complex relationship with Qaddafi. Soon after becoming the French president, Sarkozy invited the Libyan leader to France for a state visit and welcomed him with high honors. But Sarkozy then put France in the forefront of NATO-led airstrikes against Qaddafi’s troops that helped rebel fighters topple his regime in 2011.
It is not the first time that Sarkozy faced legal troubles. In February 2017, he was ordered to stand trial after being handed preliminary charges for suspected illegal overspending on his failed 2012 re-election campaign. Sarkozy has appealed the decision.


7-year-old immigrant girl dies after Border Patrol arrest

Updated 14 min 12 sec ago
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7-year-old immigrant girl dies after Border Patrol arrest

  • Immigrants, attorneys and activists have long raised issues with the conditions of Border Patrol holding cells
  • The death of the 7-year-old comes after a toddler died in May just after being released from an ICE family detention facility in Texas

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico: A 7-year-old girl who crossed the US-Mexico border with her father last week died after being taken into the custody of the US Border Patrol, federal immigration authorities confirmed Thursday.
The Washington Post reports the girl died of dehydration and shock more than eight hours after she was arrested by agents near Lordsburg, New Mexico. The girl was from Guatemala and was traveling with a group of 163 people who approached agents to turn themselves in on Dec. 6.
It’s unknown what happened to the girl during the eight hours before she started having seizures and was flown to an El Paso hospital.
In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said the girl had not eaten or consumed water in several days.
The agency did not provide The Associated Press with the statement it gave to the Post, despite repeated requests.
Processing 163 immigrants in one night could have posed challenges for the agency, whose detention facilities are meant to be temporary and don’t usually fit that many people.
When a Border Patrol agent arrests someone, that person gets processed at a facility but usually spends no more than 72 hours in custody before they are either transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or, if they’re Mexican, quickly deported home.
The girl’s death raises questions about whether border agents knew she was ill and whether she was fed anything or given anything to drink during the eight-plus hours she was in custody.
Immigrants, attorneys and activists have long raised issues with the conditions of Border Patrol holding cells. In Tucson, an ongoing lawsuit claims holding cells are filthy, extremely cold and lacking basic necessities such as blankets. A judge overseeing that lawsuit has ordered the agency’s Tucson Sector, which patrols much of the Arizona-Mexico border, to provide blankets and mats to sleep on and to continually turn over surveillance footage from inside the cells.
The Border Patrol has seen an increasing trend of large groups of immigrants, many with young children, walking up to agents and turning themselves in. Most are Central American and say they are fleeing violence. They turn themselves in instead of trying to circumvent authorities, many with plans to apply for asylum.
Agents in Arizona see groups of over 100 people on a regular basis, sometimes including infants and toddlers.
Arresting such groups poses logistical problems for agents who have to wait on transport vans that are equipped with baby seats to take them to processing facilities, some which are at least half hour north of the border.
The death of the 7-year-old comes after a toddler died in May just after being released from an ICE family detention facility in Texas, and as the administration of Donald Trump attempts to ban people from asking for asylum if they crossed the border illegally. A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked that ban, but the administration asked the US Supreme Court to reinstate it Tuesday.
Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said migrant deaths increased last year even as the number of border crossing dropped.
“This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions. Lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths,” Pompa said.