- France - justice - Nicolas Sarkozy
AFP - French prosecutors began a preliminary inquiry Friday to decide whether to try a former domestic intelligence chief who kept secret files on the personal and sexual lives of senior politicians.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose colourful private life before his election was one of those documented in police chief Yves Bertrand's notes, lodged a formal complaint alleging criminal libel and breach of privacy in October.
Legal officials told AFP on Friday that a probe had been launched into the former head of the General Intelligence agency -- France's former political police -- on the basis of Sarkozy's complaint.
The prospect of a formal investigation of the notebooks will send shudders through the Parisian elite, as cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, business leaders and celebrities are among those named in the notebooks.
Between 1998 and 2003, Bertrand filled 23 spiral-bound pads with cryptic handwritten notes recounting tales of sexual and financial indiscretions, feuds, and insults and alleged crimes among his high-level targets.
The information was not put through standard intelligence vetting, and it is not clear which of the tales are mere rumours and smears and which describe the true background to the political and economic dramas of the era.
Magistrates investigating the so-called "Angolagate" arms smuggling scandal seized the notebooks earlier this year as part of their probe, but the contents were later leaked and partially published in the news weekly Le Point.
Sarkozy, who held several government positions during the period recounted in the books, and some other famous figures were outraged by the allegations and several lodged complaints or threatened to do so.
General Intelligence was a unique French institution: a police agency set up to monitor political activity and leading public figures. Earlier this year it was merged with the DST, France's main domestic intelligence agency.