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Sarkozy placed under formal investigation in campaign funding probe

Kenzo Trouillard, AFP | Nicolas Sarkozy, head of the conservative Les Républicains party, is widely expected to run for the French presidency again in 2017.

Paris prosecutors placed France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy under formal investigation on Tuesday over excess spending in his unsuccessful 2012 re-election campaign, dealing a serious blow to his hopes of running again in 2017.

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Sarkozy, 61, was questioned all day by magistrates at the Paris financial prosecutor's office before being notified that he was under investigation for "suspected illegal financing of an election campaign for a candidate, who went beyond the legal limit for electoral spending".

The move is a prelude to a possible trial though it does not lead automatically to prosecution.

Although the leader of the conservative Les Républicains (formerly the UMP) has not yet declared his candidacy, it is widely believed that he is manoeuvring for another run at the presidency in 2017.

Sarkozy has repeatedly denied knowledge of dual accounting and some Є18 million ($20.1 million) in false invoices issued by the event organisation firm Bygmalion, which meant his campaign costs were more than double the legal limit.

Four senior figures in the 2012 campaign have already been placed under formal investigation in the so-called Bygmalion affair, including his campaign manager and treasurer.

“It will no doubt be hard to believe, but I swear it is the strict truth: I knew nothing about this company until the scandal broke,” Sarkozy wrote in a book that nevertheless admitted a number of mistakes he made in office that was published last month.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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