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.


Japan minister apologizes after ‘sexy yoga’ claims

Updated 11 min 46 sec ago
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Japan minister apologizes after ‘sexy yoga’ claims

TOKYO: Japan’s education minister apologized Wednesday for using an official car to visit a yoga studio, but denied claims that the facility was offering “sexy private yoga.”
The row is the latest headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which is already under fire after two cronyism scandals and sexual harassment claims against a top finance ministry bureaucrat.
The Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine on Wednesday reported that Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi visited a yoga studio in the hip Ebisu district in Tokyo using a state car and took private lessons there.
“I apologize for creating confusion amid a tense parliamentary situation,” Hayashi told reporters.
“As the government is facing severe rebuke and criticism, I will serve the public in a more disciplined manner,” he said, in an apparent reference to various scandals involving the cabinet in recent weeks.
“I should have drawn a line between the public and the private, even though this case was in line with rules,” he added.
Ministers are permitted to use government vehicles for private use in between public engagements, local media said.
The magazine described the yoga studio as a “sexy private yoga” studio run by a former porn actress that offers private lessons and oil massages.
But Hayashi said he was simply taking “regular yoga lessons and massages with finger pressure” for better health.
The president of the yoga studio has denied that she was ever a porn actress and is demanding a correction and an apology from the magazine.
“I firmly deny the article which presents an indecent image and is completely different from the facts,” she said.
The studio’s website says it offers private lessons for men or couples.
Support for Abe’s government has flagged due to two cronyism scandals and criticism of the way the finance ministry has handled claims that its top bureaucrat sexually harassed female reporters.
Around half of voters now disapprove of Abe’s administration, and a similar number want his Finance Minister Taro Aso to step down, polls published Monday found.
The polls bode ill for Abe’s bid to be reelected party chief in September in a vote he was once expected to win easily.