A scandal is brewing in political circles of France. For the first time in modern history, former president of the country, Nicolas Sarkozy, was summoned for interrogation and even taken into custody. The pre-trial detention will last for 24 hours, but the period is likely to be extended for another day.
The reasons for detention are quite extensive. Sarkozy is named in the case, in which he may face charges of "trading in influence," i.e. showing influence on officials to push the latter to commit certain actions for consideration.
Sarkozy, ex-President of France, came under the scope of the authorities during the investigation of the possible funding of his pre-election campaign by late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. When wiretapping Sarkozy's phone conversations, investigators unexpectedly discovered important data relating to another case, in which Sarkozy appeared as well. The case is related to female billionaire Lillian Bettencourt, the co-owner of cosmetic giant L'Oreal. The woman was suspected of providing illegal funding for Sarkozy's pre-election campaign.
Wiretapping clearly indicated that one of the judges, who was in charge of the Bettencourt court, agreed to hand over materials of the investigation to Sarkozy and his lawyer. The judge also agreed to inform Sarkozy of imminent actions. In exchange, Sarkozy promised a high position for the judge in Monaco.
Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, has been detained for testimony. Similar measures were taken against two other French judges, suspected of disclosing the materials of investigation. The persons convicted of "trading in influence" in France may face up to three years in prison and a 375,000 euro fine.
In late January, French TV channel France 3 broadcast a previously unseen interview of former Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. In the recording, dated from March 2011, the colonel mentioned that he personally funded the election campaign of Sarkozy in 2007.
The interview was made in the beginning of the civil war in Libya - a few days after France recognized the legitimacy of Gaddafi's opponents, the opposition Transitional National Council.
Speaking about the actions of France, which, under the leadership of Sarkozy, became one of the initiators of military operations and demanded immediate overthrow of Gaddafi, the colonel said he felt betrayed. "Sarkozy is mentally retarded, - said the Libyan leader. - It is only because of me that he became president. We gave him the money that allowed him to win."
Reportedly, it goes about the amount of 50 million euros.
Also, the French police launched investigation into the funding of Sarkozy's campaign in 2012. In late May, Sarkozy's party "Union for a Popular Movement" was suspected of financial fraud in connection with the election race of the ex-president.
Jérôme Lavrilleux, a senior member of the party, made a public statement and acknowledged illegal manipulations. According to Lavrilleux, the amount was approximately €11 million. The party, on its own behalf, was making bogus orders through French PR-agency Bigmalion, whilst the money was used to organize campaign events. However, Lavrilleux stressed out that Sarkozy himself "was not aware of those violations."
Meanwhile, opponents of the former president doubt that Sarkozy was not aware of the fraud.