Nicolas Sarkozy could face questioning in a raft of party financing and corruption cases when he leaves the Elysee and loses his presidential immunity.
The Right-winger, who lost his re-election bid to the Socialist Francois Hollande on Sunday, held his last cabinet meeting yesterday -- said to be an "emotional" affair in which he urged colleagues not to be "sad or bitter".
Telling aides he intends to retire from front-line politics, Mr Sarkozy let them know he was preparing to return to his former life as a lawyer at the Paris firm he still partly owns, after taking a break with his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and their baby daughter.
But the outgoing president could soon be called for questioning -- as a witness or potentially as a suspect -- in several corruption cases when he loses presidential immunity a month after leaving office on May 15.
Judges are likely to want to summon him over an investigation into who ordered French intelligence to unlawfully seek to uncover the source of journalists working for 'Le Monde'. France's intelligence chief is under investigation over the affair in which 'Le Monde' exposed links between Mr Sarkozy's government and Liliane Bettencourt, the l'Oreal billionaire caught up in a tax evasion and party financing inquiry.
Mr Sarkozy is suspected of benefiting from envelopes of cash to help fund his 2007 campaign from Mrs Bettencourt and her husband, Andre, whose former bookkeeper has told judges she withdrew e150,000 earmarked for Mr Sarkozy's then campaign treasurer.
He also faces allegations that he accepted cash from the Bettencourts before his 2007 election.
Mr Sarkozy's name has cropped up in the "Karachi affair", an investigation into kickbacks on arms contracts. Judges are looking into irregularities in the financing of former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur's 1995 presidential campaign. Mr Sarkozy was Mr Balladur's campaign spokesman and budget minister. (© Daily Telegraph, London)