French police arrested ex-president Sarkozy over ‘Gaddafi funding’

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International desk, Mar 20: French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy was taken into police custody Tuesday and questioned over allegations that late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi financed his 2007 election campaign via suitcases stuffed with cash, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.Sarkozy was detained early on Tuesday morning and was being questioned by prosecutors specialising in corruption, money laundering and tax evasion at their office in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre.

The 63-year-old had until now refused to respond to summons for questioning in the case, one of several legal probes that have dogged the right-winger since he left office after one term in 2012.

Sarkozy’s detention was first reported by the Mediapart investigative news site and French daily Le Monde.

AFP’s source said that Brice Hortefeux, a top government minister during Sarkozy’s presidency, was also questioned Tuesday as part of the inquiry.

Sarkozy has been a focus of the inquiry opened in 2013 by magistrates investigating earlier claims by late Libyan ruler Moamer Gaddafi and his son Seif al-Islam that they provided funds for Sarkozy’s election effort.

Sarkozy has dismissed the allegations as the claims of vindictive Libyan regime members furious over his participation in the US-led military intervention that ended Gaddafi’s 41-year rule and led to his death.

But the case drew heightened scrutiny in November 2016 when a Franco-Lebanese businessman admitted delivering three cash-stuffed suitcases from the Libyan leader as contributions towards Sarkozy’s first presidential run.

In an interview with the investigative website Mediapart, Ziad Takieddine said he had made three trips from Tripoli to Paris in late 2006 and early 2007 with cash for Sarkozy’s campaign.

Each time he carried a suitcase containing 1.5-2 million euros (1.8-2.5 million dollars) in 200-euro and 500-euro notes, Takieddine claimed, saying he was given the money by Gaddafi’s military intelligence chief Abdallah Senussi.