TUNIS (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi's former prime minister, in jail in neighboring Tunisia, says the ousted Libyan leader funded French President Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign to the tune of 50 million euros ($66 million), according to his lawyer.
Sarkozy, fighting an uphill battle for re-election at polls on Sunday, dismissed the accusation in comments to Canal + television. "Who believes this rubbish?," he asked. "It's outrageous, grotesque."
Sarkozy had previously dismissed as false a 2006 letter purportedly from Libya's former secret services and discussing an "agreement in principle" to pay 50 million euros to Sarkozy's campaign.
Sarkozy has said he will sue the news website Mediapart for publishing the document it says proves Gaddafi's government sought to finance Sarkozy's run at the presidency when he was interior minister.
But the lawyer for former Libyan Prime Minister Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, who is being held in Tunisia pending a decision on his extradition to Libya, said on Thursday the letter was authentic and that the funding went ahead.
"Mahmoudi told me that Gaddafi really did fund the election campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy," the lawyer, Bechir Sid, told journalists in Tunis.
Sid said Mahmoudi had informed him that Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi's former foreign minister, was the one who signed the letter authorizing funding. Koussa fled Libya to Britain in March 2011, seeking refuge after quitting Gaddafi's government.
"He said Moussa Koussa was the one who signed the document with funding of 50 million euros," he told a news conference.
Moussa Koussa could not be reached for comment. However, a source close to him said he reaffirmed a statement he gave to French media a few days ago in which he said: "All these allegations are false."
Mahmoudi was for years a powerful figure inside Gaddafi's ruling elite. He served as Gaddafi's prime minister from 2006 until he fled to neighboring Tunisia around the time that rebel fighters took the country's capital Tripoli in August.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) which has ruled Libya since Gaddafi's ouster last year, said on Wednesday the letter was fake.
"After the media reported about this letter, we have seen this letter, and we checked it and we didn't find any reference to this letter in Libyan archives," he told a news conference, adding that it was worded unusually for the former regime. Reporting by Patrick Vignal; editing by Ralph Boulton
Reporting by Zoubeir Souissi, Writing by Lin Noueihed