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Former French president Sarkozy's anger over link to cocaine smuggling probe

Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy has denounced magistrates who seized his mobile phone records over a drug smuggling ring. He says investigators have violated legal principles in order to smear his name.

Sarkozy's criticism follows a decision by French investigators to track the former French President's phone usage in connection with a transatlantic drug smuggling operation.

In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper on Tuesday, Sarkozy said his lawyers wanted to know why the judiciary had examined his phone records, when the only link was that he had flown with the airline at the center of the probe.

The case, which has dominated headlines in France over the past week, surrounds the escape of two French airline pilots from the Dominican Republic. They were convicted of smuggling cocaine on small private jets between the Dominican Republic and the upmarket French Riviera resort of Saint Tropez.

The pair arrived back in France in mysterious circumstances last week.

"What I want to know is what could justify an investigating magistrate taking such measures solely because I used the same airline," Sarkozy told the paper.

"What do they think I did - fly to Punta Cana with 700 kg of cocaine? All this would be just laughable if it wasn't about a violation of legal principles that all French people support," he said.

French pilot Pascal Fauret

Pilots Pascal Fauret (pictured center) and Bruno Odos were jailed in the Dominican Republic for drug smuggling

Smear campaign?

Sarkozy, who is not linked to the trafficking, is widely tipped to run again for the French presidency in 2017.

He believes that the tracking of his phones and laptops could not have been authorized without the knowledge of President Francois Hollande's socialist government.

But Justice Minister Christiane Taubira said the investigation of Sarkozy was not linked to drug trafficking but a probe into the abuse of state funds to pay for his trips on private jets.

The two pilots were sentenced in August to 20 years in jail before making a 'James Bond-style' escape last week, leading local media to speculate that French politicians had helped them to flee.

The men have been taken in for questioning and Dominican authorities say they intend to issue an international arrest warrant for the pair.

mm/jm (AP, Reuters)

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