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Sarkozy again targeted over alleged Libyan campaign funding

Nicolas Sarkozy has been hit with new claims he took illegal campaign funds from the Libyan government in 2007. France's former president is seeking to recapture his nation's highest office and faces a primary on Sunday.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing fresh allegations he accepted millions of euros in illegal funds from the regime of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

In a video released by investigative website Mediapart, French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine said he delivered suitcases containing 5 million euros ($5.4 million) in cash to Sarkozy and his former chief of staff in 2007. The money was in support of his winning presidential campaign that year.

Takieddine says he was given 5 million euros in Tripoli by Gadhafi's intelligence chief in late 2006 and 2007. He says he gave the money in suitcases full of cash to Sarkozy and Claude Gueant on three occasions. The handovers reportedly took place in the Interior Ministry, while Sarkozy was interior minister and Gueant was his chief of staff.

Sarkozy has been under investigation since 2013 over claims the Gadhafi regime secretly gave him 50 million euros ($54 million) overall for the 2007 campaign. Such a sum is more than double the legal campaign funding limit.  The payments would also violate French rules against foreign financing.

Upcoming primary

Sarkozy, who served as president from 2007 to 2012 and is seeking nomination as the conservative candidate in next year's presidential election, has always denied allegations that he took covert funding from Libya.

"Once more, and always before an election, Mediapart is trying to taint Nicolas Sarkozy with allegations (that are) as untrue today as they were yesterday," Sarkozy's lawyer Thierry Herzog told news agency Reuters in a statement.

Legal proceedings will be launched in response to "this crude manipulation," he added.

Gueant's lawyer, Philippe Bouchez El Ghozi, also denied any wrongdoing.

"Claude Gueant has always been very clear. He never received from near or far or heard about a centime of money from Libya to support Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign. He has repeated this multiple times to the judicial authorities," he told Reuters.

The new allegations come as Sarkozy gets set to face conservative rivals in a primary on Sunday. Polls suggest he and former Prime Minister Alain Juppe are the front-runners for their conservative party, the Republicans. Sarkozy is trying to regain the presidency after losing in 2013 to Socialist Francois Hollande.

bw/kl (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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