Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation early on Wednesday on suspicion of influence-peddling and other crimes in connection with a probe into alleged misdeeds in the financing of his 2007 election campaign.
His lawyer, Thierry Herzog, and a high-ranking judge, Gilbert Azibert, were also placed under formal investigation on Tuesday night.
“It’s a serious situation, the facts are serious,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said of the case on Wednesday.
Investigators are seeking to establish whether Sarkozy, with the help of his lawyer Herzog, attempted to pervert the course of justice by seeking to obtain inside information from a magistrate about a probe into alleged misdeeds in the financing of his 2007 election campaign.
They suspect Sarkozy, 59, was also tipped off that his mobile phone had been tapped by judges looking into allegations that his 2007 election campaign had been financed in part by former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Sarkozy has denied the claims that he received up to €50 million ($70 million at the time) from Gaddafi.
Judges last year obtained the unprecedented authorisation to tap the phones of a former president in connection with the Gaddafi investigation, which is ongoing.
Investgators eventually discovered that Sarkozy had a secret phone registered under an assumed name. It was conversations with Herzog recorded on that device that triggered the investigation.
The legal authorisation to record normally privileged lawyer-client conversations has provoked criticism from parts of France's legal establishment.
Blow to planned comeback
Wednesday's move is the latest blow to Sarkozy's hopes of a comeback after his 2012 election defeat by Socialist rival François Hollande. The conservative politician denies all wrongdoing in a string of investigations in which he is either directly or indirectly implicated.
It was the second time the ex-president, who lost presidential immunity from legal prosecution a month after he left office in June 2012, was placed under such a judicial probe. The first time occurred in 2013 but the case was later dropped against him.
Influence-peddling can be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 euros ($682,000).
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-07-02