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Charges dropped against former French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Corruption charges against former French President Nicolas Sarkozy linked to the financing of his 2007 election campaign have reportedly been dropped. The decision could pave the way for Sarkozy to return to politics.

French investigators in the city of Bordeaux on Monday dropped illegal campaign contributions charges against former President Nicolas Sarkozy, the regional Sud Ouest newspaper and the national Le Monde daily reported. The prosecutor's office refused to confirm the reports, and said it would release a statement on Tuesday.

According to the Reuters news agency, the two magistrates in charge of the investigation decided to pursue their case against former French Budget Minister Eric Woerth and nine others in the case.

Sarkozy, 58, was charged in March with exploiting the mental frailty of billionaire L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt in order to gain contributions towards his successful 2007 election campaign.

The donations in question had allegedly amounted to 150,000 euros ($193,000), well above the 7,500-euro legal limit on individual campaign contributions.

Sarkozy has denied any wrongdoing.

The Sud-Ouest newspaper reported that the magistrates leading the investigation had decided to drop the charges, deeming their case "too tenuous."

The dropped charges could clear the way for Sarkozy to return politics in time for the 2017 presidential election.

Sarkozy's center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) had protested against his prosecution, saying the case was part of a political vendetta.

hc/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)