FORMER French president Nicolas Sarkozy was yesterday held in custody over allegations he received £42million in illegal payments from the late Libyan dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi.
The 63-year-old was arrested in Paris over claims he received kickbacks in 2007 to fund the election campaign that took him to power for five years.
French law bans any candidate from receiving cash payments above £6,300, but the alleged donation is said to have been laundered through bank accounts in Panama and Switzerland.
A document written in Arabic and apparently signed by Col Gaddafi’s intelligence chief Moussa Koussa refers to an ‘agreement in principle to support the campaign for the candidate for the presidential elections, Nicolas Sarkozy, for a sum equivalent to 50million euros’.
French news site Mediapart reports a Libyan governmental briefing note that a visit by Mr Sarkozy and his colleagues in 2005 led to ‘campaign finance to NS’ being ‘all paid’ — believed to be a reference to Mr Sarkozy.
The cash is said to have been distributed through an arms dealer called Ziad Takieddine who acted as a middle man.
Col Gaddafi’s son Saif-Al Islam, who is now being held in Libya following the toppling of his father’s regime, has 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 Col Gaddafi was honoured with a state visit to Paris in late 2007. He was referred to as the ‘Brother Leader’ by Mr Sarkozy.
But relations soured during the Arab spring of 2011 when French jets were the first to attack Col Gaddafi’s tanks. The Libyan leader was killed by a militia. Mr Sarkozy was expected to remain in custody until tomorrow morning.