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UK hands businessman Djouhri, at heart of Sarkozy's Libyan finance scandal, to French authorities

French businessman Alexandre Djouhri in London on February 26, 2019.
French businessman Alexandre Djouhri in London on February 26, 2019. © Niklas Halle'n, AFP

A businessman at the heart of a probe into alleged Libyan financing of French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign was handed over to authorities in Paris Thursday after being extradited from the UK, judicial sources said.

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Alexandre Djouhri, 60, was originally arrested at Heathrow airport in January 2018 under a European warrant issued by French judges on charges of embezzlement of public funds and corruption.

French investigators are examining his alleged involvement in the 2008 sale of a villa in the French Alps valued at 1.3 million euros ($1.4 million) at the "inflated price" of about 10 million euros.

A Libyan investment fund managed by Bashir Saleh, the ex-chief of staff of Libya's deposed leader Moamer Kadhafi, bought the property, and Djouhri is suspected of being its true owner, according to a London court ruling last year that ordered his extradition to France.

He is also accused of paying 500,000 euros to Sarkozy aide Claude Gueant "so that he would use his position to make various interventions to assist Mr Djouhri in his business affairs".

After a two-year legal battle, a British court in January agreed to hand Djouhri over to France.

His lawyer later said that Djouhri intended to return to France to "vigorously contest" the proceedings.

Investigators also suspect Djouhri of helping Saleh get out of France in early 2012, in a private jet headed for Niger, as he faced a Libyan arrest warrant a few months after Kadhafi's overthrow.

The businessman claims he is the victim of a "judicial trap".

(AFP)

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