French ex-president Sarkozy put under investigation for illicit campaign funding

French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy put under investigation for illicit campaign financing. (
Updated 21 March 2018
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French ex-president Sarkozy put under investigation for illicit campaign funding

PARIS: Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was handed preliminary charges Tuesday over allegations he accepted millions of euros in illegal campaign funding from the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
A judicial official told The Associated Press that investigative judges overseeing the probe gave the ex-president charges of illegally funding his 2007 winning campaign, passive corruption and receiving money from Libyan embezzlement. The person was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
The charges came after Sarkozy was detained for two days of questioning by anticorruption police at a station in Nanterre, northwest of the French capital.
Sarkozy, 63, who was France's president from 2007-12, has repeatedly and vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
An investigation involving funding for his winning 2007 presidential campaign first was launched in 2013. Investigators are examining claims that Gaddafi's regime secretly gave the politician 50 million euros overall for his campaign.
The sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit at the time — 21 million euros. In addition, the alleged payments would violate French rules against foreign financing and requiring that the source of campaign funds be declared.
His lawyer, Thierry Herzog, did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Sarkozy's former top aide, the ex-minister Brice Hortefeux, was also questioned Tuesday, but not detained. He said on Twitter that the details he gave investigators "should help put an end to a series of mistakes and lies."
The investigation got a boost when French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine told the online investigative site Mediapart in 2016 that he delivered suitcases from Libya containing 5 million euros ($6.2 million) in cash to Sarkozy and his former chief of staff, Claude Gueant.
Takieddine repeated his allegations during a live interview with France's BFM TV on Wednesday night.
He claimed he personally handed a suitcase containing 2 million euros (about $2.5 million) in cash to Sarkozy at the then-candidate's apartment and another suitcase with 1.5 million euros (about $1.9 million) to Sarkozy and a close aide at the French Interior Ministry. Sarkozy was interior minister at the time.
Takieddine alleged he gave a third suitcase with 1.5 million euros in cash to the aide alone. He said the money was not meant to finance Sarkozy's presidential campaign in 2007, but to honor contracts between France and Libya.
"He's a real liar," Takieddine said of Sarkozy.
Sarkozy had a complex relationship with Gaddafi. Soon after winning the French presidency, Sarkozy invited the Libyan leader for a state visit and welcomed him to France with high honors.
But Sarkozy then put France in the forefront of NATO-led airstrikes against Gaddafi's troops that helped rebel fighters topple Gaddafi's regime in 2011.


Macron fires bodyguard filmed beating protester; critics say too late

Updated 18 min 19 sec ago
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Macron fires bodyguard filmed beating protester; critics say too late

  • Alexandre Benalla, who as Macron’s top bodyguard has long been a fixture by his side, was taken into custody for police questioning over the incident, which took place when Benalla appeared at May Day protests in a riot helmet and police tags.
  • Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the lenient initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron fired the head of his personal security detail on Friday but faced criticism for failing to act sooner, after a video was released showing the man posing as a police officer and beating a protester while off duty in May.
Alexandre Benalla, who as Macron’s top bodyguard has long been a fixture by his side, was taken into custody for police questioning over the incident, which took place when Benalla appeared at May Day protests in a riot helmet and police tags.
He had initially been suspended for just 15 days and allowed to return to work. Just days ago he was seen in public helping to organize security for celebrations for the return of France’s World Cup champion soccer team.
Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the lenient initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.
In the footage, which was released on Wednesday by Le Monde newspaper, Benalla can be seen dragging a woman away from a protest and later beating a male demonstrator. On Friday, French media released a second video which showed Benalla also manhandling the woman.
He had been given permission by the president’s office to attend the protests as an observer of the security operation, but had no authorization to take part in police work.
The president’s office brushed off accusations that it had responded only because the nearly three-month-old videos had become public. It said the decision had now been taken to fire Benalla because the bodyguard had improperly obtained a document while trying to make his case over the accusations.
“New facts that could constitute a misdemeanour by Alexandre Benalla were brought to the president’s attention,” an official at the presidential palace told Reuters. “As a result ... the presidency has decided to start Alexandre Benalla’s dismissal procedure.”
Critics of Macron called the president’s delayed response a characteristic sign that he is out of touch. It follows controversies over government spending on official crockery, a swimming pool at a presidential retreat and cutting remarks by the president about the costs of welfare.
After hours of debate in the lower house on Thursday, lawmakers agreed to launch a parliamentary inquiry.
“Why did he protect this person? Does he head up a parallel police force? Refusing to answer makes (Macron) complicit in these acts of violence,” Eric Ciotti, a senior member of the conservative Republicans party, said on Twitter.