Sunday 22 April 2018

Libya lies cost me election and have made my life hell: Sarkozy

Then French president Nicolas Sarkozy, left, greets Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2007. Photo: AP
Then French president Nicolas Sarkozy, left, greets Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2007. Photo: AP

Brian Love and Emmanuel Jarry

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy told magistrates that accusations of illicit Libyan funding for his 2007 election campaign were a web of lies that had made his life "hell" and lost him a re-election bid in 2012, 'Le Figaro' newspaper said.

The 63-year-old, who held power from 2007 to 2012, was told by investigators after two days of questioning in police custody on Wednesday he was formally suspected of passive corruption, an offence that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in jail.

At issue is a murky affair of Libyan spies, arms dealers and allegations that late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi provided Mr Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign with millions of euro shipped to Paris in suitcases -allegations Mr Sarkozy has always denied.

The newspaper published a lengthy account of what it said was a verbatim declaration by Mr Sarkozy.

"This calumny has made my life a living hell since March 11, 2011," he states, according to the newspaper.

"I've paid a heavy price for this affair. Put it this way: I lost the presidential election of 2012 by 1.5 percentage points.

"The controversy initiated by Gaddafi and his hench- men cost me that 1.5pc."

Mr Sarkozy, who came under fire for giving Gaddafi a red-carpet reception in Paris in late 2007, said his problems began in March 2011 after he hosted Libyan rebels and went on to become one of the main advocates of a Nato-led campaign that resulted in the dictator's overthrow and killing by rebels in 2011.

He also denounced what he described as lies from one of his main accusers, a Franco-Lebanese businessman who has described himself among other things as a "middleman in the shadows" on liaison between Paris and Libyan secret service chiefs.

The accusations prompted the opening of a judicial inquiry in 2013 which snowballed this week when Mr Sarkozy was called in for interrogation and, on Wednesday evening, formally placed under investigation as a suspect in the affair.

In France, being "placed under investigation" is a step that judicial investigators can take if they have serious grounds for suspecting an offence. It often but not always leads to trial.

Mr Sarkozy has been dogged for years by accusations of wrongdoing. He is challenging an order to stand trial on charges of illicit spending overruns during his failed 2012 campaign.

One of the factors that played in Emmanuel Macron's election win in May 2017 was a promise of a clean break with traditional French politics, often marred by accusations of corruption.

Irish Independent

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