France investigates Sarkozy campaign funds on alleged Libya link

PARIS Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:13am EDT

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy waves as he attends the Champions League quarter-final first leg soccer match where Paris St Germain faces Barcelona at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris, April 2, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy waves as he attends the Champions League quarter-final first leg soccer match where Paris St Germain faces Barcelona at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris, April 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Christian Hartmann

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PARIS (Reuters) - France has opened a judicial investigation into allegations that former President Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election bid won illicit funds from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the public prosecutor's office said on Friday.

The inquiry adds to the legal issues plaguing Sarkozy, who some see making a comeback bid in 2017 after losing office last year - a defeat which cost him the immunity from prosecution he enjoyed during five years as head of state.

An official at the prosecutor's office said an inquiry had been opened after allegations made by a Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, himself under investigation in a separate affair of arms sales to Pakistan in the 1990s.

Sarkozy, who met Gaddafi in Paris in 2007, has always denied wrongdoing and has pointed out that he was the chief advocate of a NATO-led military campaign that resulted in Gaddafi's overthrow and killing at the hands of rebel forces in 2011.

The funding of Sarkozy's successful 2007 election campaign is already being examined as part of another inquiry into ties between his center-right UMP party and France's richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt, heiress of the L'Oreal cosmetics empire.

Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation last month over allegations he took advantage of the mental frailty of the 90-year-old woman to win campaign funds. Sarkozy has always denied wrongdoing in the Bettencourt case too.

(Reporting by China Labbe; Writing by Brian Love and editing by Mark John)

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