Europe

French police search Nicolas Sarkozy home and office

  • 3 July 2012
  • From the section Europe
File image of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy
Image caption The allegations relate to the financing of Mr Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign

Police have carried out searches of the home and offices of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy as part of a campaign financing probe.

A law firm in which Mr Sarkozy owns shares was also searched, reports say.

The investigation is related to allegations that Mr Sarkozy's 2007 presidential election campaign received illegal donations from France's richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt.

Mr Sarkozy has previously denied all wrongdoing.

He is currently in Canada with his family, his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, told the AFP news agency.

In presidential elections in May, Mr Sarkozy lost to Socialist challenger Francois Hollande, and his presidential immunity from prosecution ended on 16 June.

Tens of thousands of euros were allegedly funnelled to Mr Sarkozy's campaign by Ms Bettencourt's office.

Individual campaign contributions in France are limited to 4,600 euros ($5,800).

"These raids... will as expected prove futile," Mr Herzog said in a statement.

'Lies and calumny'

An investigating magistrate is looking into claims that staff acting for the L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, gave 150,000 euros in cash to Mr Sarkozy's aides during his 2007 bid to become president.

Ms Bettencourt's former accountant, Claire Thibout, alleges Mr Sarkozy's campaign treasurer - Eric Woerth - who later became his budget minister - collected the cash in person.

In addition, there are other witnesses who allege that during the 2007 campaign, Mr Sarkozy made several private visits to Ms Bettencourt's home.

But Mr Herzog has said that Mr Sarkozy's detailed diary, from the time he was interior minister and accompanied everywhere by police officers, will prove that claims of him attending those meetings were "materially impossible".

Eric Woerth is already under criminal investigation.

The charges in his case relate to claims he had used his influence as a minister to secure France's highest award, the Legion d'honneur, for Mrs Bettencourt's financial manager.

But as yet he is not under criminal investigation for the wider allegation of illegal campaign financing.

The former president has condemned the allegations he is facing as "lies and calumny".

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