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France

Sarkozy wiretapping corruption probe 'suspended'

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-09-24

A corruption probe involving former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been temporarily suspended, a judicial source said Wednesday. The case relates to Sarkozy's alleged attempt to seek inside information from a magistrate investigating him.

The Paris appeals court decided Tuesday to freeze the investigation into influence-peddling pending a review of Sarkozy's request to have the case dismissed, a source close to the investigation told AFP on Wednesday. The suspension could last several months.

Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation in July over the corruption allegations. Investigators are seeking to establish whether Sarkozy, with the help of his lawyer, attempted to pervert the course of justice by seeking to obtain inside information from a high court magistrate about a probe into possible misdeeds in the financing of his 2007 election campaign.

Investigators suspect that Sarkozy was tipped off that his mobile phone had been tapped by judges looking into allegations that his 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 the Libyan leader. Judges last year obtained unprecedented authorisation to tap the phones of a former president in connection with the Gaddafi investigation, which is ongoing.

The magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, was charged in the case along with Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog.

Sarkozy and Herzog argue that the wiretaps on their phone calls were illegal.

Political comeback?

The announcement of the case's suspension comes days after Sarkozy announced his intention to seek the leadership of his conservative UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) party in a political comeback that many believe will help pave the way for him to launch a renewed bid for the presidency in 2017. Sarkozy lost his 2012 re-election campaign to President François Hollande.

The latest legal development in the Sarkozy saga offers something of a respite to the former president, who remains accused in several other judicial matters, including for alleged corruption.

The UMP party is in disarray over internal bickering and accusations of financial mismanagement. An ongoing probe alleges that the UMP falsely inflated invoices by up to €11 million ($14 million) to hide the fact that the party exceeded a 2012 campaign spending cap.

Another Sarkozy case involves suspected kickbacks from a Pakistani arms deal concluded in 1995 when he was budget minister while another alleges nepotism in the award of opinion polling contracts while he was president.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-09-24

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