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Former French President Sarkozy faces new indictment in campaign finance case

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PARIS Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s legal troubles escalated on Friday as prosecutors said he was facing a new indictment in a lengthy investigation into possible Libyan illegal financing of his 2007 presidential campaign.

The affair has dealt a serious blow to the renewed political aspirations of Mr Sarkozy, president from 2007 to 2012, and still backed by millions of center-right French voters. On Friday, after a new round of questioning by investigating magistrates in Paris, prosecutors said Mr Sarkozy had been charged with criminal conspiracy linking him to the actions of a former aide, Thierry Gaubert, accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars. in Libyan Money through a bank account in the Bahamas

The new indictment comes on top of three existing ones in the Libyan campaign finance case. In the spring of 2018, the first three charges were filed, formally accusing him of embezzlement of Libyan public funds, illegal campaign financing and passive corruption, a charge related to people accused of receiving money or favors.

So far concrete evidence of Mr Sarkozy’s guilt has been scarce. But in 2016 Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, also charged and now on the run since his conviction in a special case, said he had handed over nearly $ 6 million to Mr. Sarkozy and an aide in late 2006 and early 2007. Investigators have determined that Mr. The Takieddines were fed by the regime of the now deceased Libyan strongman Col Muammar al-Gaddafi.

It is unclear whether the new indictment brings Mr Sarkozy closer to trial in the case, the first to open the year after he stepped down. On Friday, the former president, best known for his tough talk about illegal immigrants, Islamic terrorism and crime, vigorously maintained his innocence.

“I learned of these new allegations with the utmost dizziness,” Mr Sarkozy wrote on Facebook on Friday. “Once again my innocence is violated by a decision that does not carry the slightest evidence of any illegal financing,” he wrote.

In addition to the issue of Libyan funding, Mr Sarkozy has been involved in two other cases in which he has been ordered to stand trial, one for attempting to obtain confidential information from a judge, and the other for overstepping financial limits. of the campaign.

Despite his legal problems, Mr Sarkozy has managed to remain a force in center-right French politics. His advice is still sought after by many Republicans political party, the formation of which he built, and even by President Emmanuel Macron. The French news media regularly report on contacts between the two men and Mr Macrons’s right-wing shift in the latter part of his presidency owes much to the topics defended by Mr Sarkozy.

Aurelien Breeden contributed to the report from Aix-en-Provence, France.

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