Sarkozy's main rival 'target of dirty tricks spying'
French intelligence agents have been accused of spying on the private life of Francois Hollande, the Socialist who is tipped to beat Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential elections.
"Hand-picked" agents from the Paris police force's intelligence arm were ordered to conduct an illicit investigation into the private life of Mr Hollande's partner, Valerie Trierweiler, it was claimed yesterday.
Several "concordant" intelligence sources claimed that the agents carried out their secret mission on the journalist and TV presenter this year after Mr Hollande had announced his intention to run in Socialist primaries, to be held next weekend and the weekend after.
A source told 'l'Express' magazine: "The aim was to establish a detailed biographical note on Ms Trierweiler."
The Paris police denied the existence of such an investigation, saying: "The intelligence services in no way intervene in political and private domains."
Minister of the Interior, Claude Gueant, said there was "no proof" that such an operation existed.
But l'Express insisted the spying job had taken place and that it had shocked members of the force, already reeling from other spying accusations involving Mr Sarkozy's closest lieutenants.
A French judge is investigating claims that intelligence agencies illegally obtained detailed phone records of a journalist from 'Le Monde' newspaper to uncover his source on a story about the Bettencourt affair, the family saga which exploded into an illegal party-funding scandal that severely tainted the Right.
Ms Trierweiler said she was "dumbfounded" by the alleged incident. Mr Hollande called for the "utmost transparency" over the report.
"It says a lot about the way the Right intends to lead their (presidential) campaign. It's an intrusion, it's pressure and it's totally unacceptable," he said.
The agents who allegedly took part in the spy operation belonged to a unit that was formerly part of the Renseignements Generaux (RG), France's former domestic spy service.
The RG were notorious as a tool for French leaders to keep tabs on and eliminate rivals.
Mr Sarkozy was accused earlier this year of keeping a cache of sleaze allegations on his rivals.
Now Mr Hollande is his most serious threat. (© Daily Telegraph, London)