Probe opens of alleged Libyan funding for Sarkozy

PARIS (AP) — Paris prosecutors on Friday began investigating whether the winning presidential campaign of former President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 may have received illegal funding from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

The judicial investigation doesn’t specify any suspect by name and centers on allegations of corruption, influence trafficking, forgery, abuse of public funds and money laundering, according to Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman with the Paris prosecutors’ office.

The probe is based on claims by Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine during questioning by officials in December, she said. Allegations of Libyan financing for Sarkozy’s campaign first emerged in French media last year in the waning days of his losing re-election bid against Socialist Francois Hollande — now France’s president.

Sarkozy is facing other scrutiny of judicial investigators over the financing of his 2007 campaign. Last month, a Bordeaux judge filed preliminary charges against him over allegations that Sarkozy had illegally taken donations from France’s richest woman in the 2007 election cycle.

Sarkozy has denied any wrongdoing. A phone message left for Sarkozy’s lawyer wasn’t immediately returned Friday.

The investigative news Web site Mediapart, which has broken news on a string of high-profile recent scandals in France, reported last year it had evidence that Gadhafi had offered campaign funds to Sarkozy. Prosecutors began investigating the publication after Sarkozy filed a suit against Mediapart for “forgery” and “publication of false news” last year — and the site’s managers countersued for alleged slander.

Sarkozy had an up-and-down relationship with Gadhafi. Early in his five-year tenure, Sarkozy invited the Libyan leader to France for a state visit, but he put France in a key position in the NATO-led airstrikes against Gadhafi’s troops that helped rebel fighters topple his regime in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring uprisings.

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