Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was detained on Tuesday for questioning in a corruption probe, AFP reports. A day before Sarkozy’s lawyer and two magistrates were detained.
It is the latest blow to Sarkozy’s hopes of a comeback after his 2012 election defeat by Socialist rival Francois Hollande. The conservative politician denies all wrongdoing in a string of investigations in which he is either directly or indirectly implicated, reports Reuters.
Sarkozy is being investigated on suspicion he used his influence to secure leaked details of an inquiry into alleged irregularities in his victorious 2007 election campaign. He is accused of influence peddling, corruption and benefiting from “the breach of professional secrets,” the prosecutor’s office said.
He was informed of the investigation during the early hours of Wednesday by investigating magistrates after he had been held until nearly midnight on Tuesday in police custody.
A few hours earlier, Sarkozy’s attorney and a judge involved in the case were similarly placed under formal investigation on suspicion of influence peddling, their attorneys said.
Placing a suspect under formal investigation means there exists “serious or consistent evidence” pointing to probable implication of a suspect in a crime.
Influence-peddling can be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 euros ($682,000).
It was the second time the ex-president, who lost presidential immunity from legal prosecution a month after he left office in June 2012, was placed under such a judicial probe. The first time occurred in 2013 but the case was later dropped against him.
The investigators suspect Sarkozy in obtaining inside information from one of the magistrates about the progress of another probe and that he was tipped off that his mobile phone had been tapped by judges looking into the alleged financing of his 2007 presidential campaign by former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Before his presidency, he was the leader of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). Under Jacques Chirac’s presidency he served as Minister of the Interior in Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s (UMP) first two governments (from May 2002 to March 2004), then was appointed Minister of Finances in Raffarin’s last government (March 2004 to May 2005) and again Minister of the Interior in Dominique de Villepin’s government (2005–2007).
Sarkozy was also president of the General council of the Hauts-de-Seine department from 2004 to 2007 and mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, one of the wealthiest communes of France, from 1983 to 2002. He was Minister of the Budget in the government of Édouard Balladur (RPR, predecessor of the UMP) during François Mitterrand’s last term.
In foreign affairs, he promised a strengthening of the entente cordiale with the United Kingdom and closer cooperation with the United States. During his term, he faced the late-2000s financial crisis (followed by the recession and the debt crisis caused by it) and the Arab Spring (especially in Tunisia, Libya, and Syria). He married Italian-French singer-songwriter Carla Bruni on 2 February 2008 at the Élysée Palace in Paris.
On 6 May 2012, Sarkozy was defeated in the 2012 election by Socialist François Hollande by a margin of 3.2 percentage points, or 1,139,983 votes. After leaving the office, Sarkozy retired from political life. As a former president, Sarkozy is entitled to ex officio membership in the Constitutional Council.