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French prosecutors seek trial against Sarkozy over Libya

May 12, 2023

The scandal-plagued Nicolas Sarkozy is yet again under prosecutors' radar for accepting millions in illegal campaign funds from former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi.

Nicolas Sarkozy, Former President of France at a commission hearing in April 2023.
Nicolas Sarkozy already faces one custodial sentence that he is appealingImage: Vincent Isore/IP3press/IMAGO

French prosecutors, on Thursday, called for a fresh trial against former President Nicolas Sarkozy and 12 of his associates for allegedly using illegal political donations from Libya to finance his 2007 election campaign.

The 68-year-old is accused of embezzling public funds, bribery, criminal association and illegal campaign financing, the public prosecutor's office announced in a statement.

What are the details of the case?

Sarkozy allegedly received millions of euros that had illegally hailed from the regime of former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi to campaign for the 2007 French elections, which he ultimately won.

Early in his time as president, Sarkozy maintained comparatively friendly ties with Libya, for instance inviting Gadhafi for a controversial state visit in 2009. But in 2011, amid pressure about his ties to the Libyan regime and amid its repression of domestic unrest, he put France at the forefront of the Western-led campaign to overthrow him.

Former budget minister Eric Woerth, Sarkozy's right hand man Claude Gueant and ex-minister Brice Hortefeux are some of the others named in the charges.

It is unclear if and when the trial will take place since a prosecutor's demand is just the first step on the route to a court hearing in France's legal system. Investigating judges must concur that the case warrants prosecution after prosecutors say they believe they have a case to pursue.

A witness emerged in 2016, saying that in late 2006 or early 2007 he had brought several suitcases prepared by the Libyan regime — with $5 million (€5.5 million) in it — and delivered it to the Interior Ministry in Paris, which was led by Sarkozy at the time. The former president who occupied the Elysee Palace between 2007 and 2012, has always denied these claims.

However, the Libya affair is not the only scandal Sarkozy faces. He was previously sentenced to three years in prison, two of them suspended, for bribery and undue influence. The result of Sarkozy's appeal in that case is due next week. He is also appealing a conviction for campaign fraud, made in 2021.

He is the first former president of France to be sentenced to prison for offenses committed during and after his term in office, although famously Jacques Chirac was also convicted — albeit with his prison sentence suspended — in 2011. 

mk/msh (dpa, AFP)