Corruption probe is launched into Nicholas Sarkozy amid claims he took 40m from Colonel Gaddafi to fund election campaign

Nicholas Sarkozy in corruption probe amid claims he took 40MILLION from Colonel Gaddafi to fund election campaignFrench law bans candidates from
receiving cash payments above 6,300Claims
donations were laundered through banks in Panama and
SwitzerlandSarkozy called Gaddafi 'Brother Leader' at controversial visit to Paris in 2007Former president may have accepted 40million in under-the-table kickbacks

By
Matt Blake and Peter Allen

PUBLISHED:

11:10 GMT, 19 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:29 GMT, 20 April 2013

Former French president Nicholas Sarkozy is to be formally investigated amid claims he accepted 40million in under-the-table kickbacks from Colonel Gaddafi during his 2007 election campaign, it was revealed today.

An official at the public prosecutor’s office said an inquiry had been opened after allegations by French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, himself under investigation over arms sales to Pakistan in the 1990s.

Mr Sarkozy, 58, faces a range of charges including bribery and corruption, forgery, misuse of corporate assets and influence peddling, according to a judicial source.

Former Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi being welcomed to Elysee Palace by Nicolas Sarkozy when he was President

Double act: Former Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi being welcomed to Elysee Palace by Nicolas Sarkozy when he was President

Old friends: Eyebrows were first raised when Gaddafi was honoured with a state visit to Paris in late 2007

Old friends: Eyebrows were first raised when Gaddafi was honoured with a state visit to Paris in late 2007 in which Sarkozy referred to him as the 'Brother Leader' and was allowed to pitch his tent next to the Elysee Palace

French law bans candidates from
receiving cash payments above 6,300, but it is claimed that Gaddafi’s
donations were laundered through bank accounts in Panama and
Switzerland.

An Arabic language document made
public last year refers to Gaddafi approving an 'agreement in principle
to support the campaign for the candidate for the presidential
elections, Nicolas Sarkozy, for a sum equivalent to 50 million euros
(40 million)'.

A
bundle of incriminating evidence was leaked by senior members of the
National Transitional Council, the organisation which governed Libya
after the Arab Spring revolution.

The
money was then allegedly distributed through Ziad Takieddine, 62, who was acting
as a middle man between Arab despots and French politicians.

Takieddine was interviewed by Paris
judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke on December 19 and said the majority of the
money was paid between ‘December 2006 and January 2007’, five months
before Sarkozy came to power.

Corrupt campaign Nicolas Sarkozy, right, shakes hands with resigning Socialist Party political advisor Eric Besson at a campaign rally in Dijon during his 2007 election campaign

Corrupt campaign Nicolas Sarkozy, right, shakes hands with resigning Socialist Party political advisor Eric Besson at a campaign rally in Dijon during his 2007 election campaign

Saif al-Islam, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at a conference in Tripoli, Libya

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Give it back: Gaddafi's son, Saif-Al Islam Gaddafi, left, who is now awaiting trial, has also insisted that Libya financed Sarkozy's election

Gaddafi's
son, Saif-Al Islam Gaddafi, has also insisted that Libya financed Sarkozy's
election.

Saif-Al Islam, who is now awaiting trial, said: 'Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We funded it.’

Eyebrows were first raised when Gaddafi was honoured with a state visit to Paris in late 2007.

He was referred to as the 'Brother Leader' by the French president, and allowed to pitch his tent next to the Elysee Palace.

This is yet another corruption
scandal, in which Sarkozy is accused of accepting millions in illegal
cash from Liliane Bettencourt, the l’Oreal heiress and France’s richest
woman.

Sarkozy turned
on his friend Gaddafi at the beginning of the Arab Spring, French jets
were the first to attack Gaddafi's tanks in a brutal military campaign
which ended with the Libyan leader being murdered.