Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation on Wednesday on suspicions he tried to use his influence to thwart an investigation of his 2007 election campaign, the prosecutor’s office said.
The step, which often but not always leads to trial, is a major setback to Sarkozy’s hopes of a comeback after his 2012 defeat by Socialist rival Francois Hollande.
However, placing under investigation doesn’t necessarily means that it will lead to prosecution. Sarkozy was charged with “active corruption”, “influence peddling” and “aiding the violation of professional secrecy” after 15 hours of questioning by anti-corruption police.
If proven guilty, Sarkozy could face 10 years of prison and a fine of 1 million euros for “active corruption” and five years of prison and 500, 000 euros of fine for influence peddling if judges decide to take this case to trial. Former president and his lawyer Thierry Herzog have been charged with trying to influence legal proceedings in the Bettencourt affair. They allegedly offered a lucrative job in Monaco to a magistrate in exchange for information on the case.
Web of inquiries
Sarkozy has been mired in multiple scandals since his defeat in the 2012 elections.
Such as ‘Karachigate’ that centres on a multi-billion-euro submarine sale to Pakistan in which kickbacks are supposed to have funded the failed Presidential campaign of former PM Edouard Balladur in 1995 when Sarkozy was budget minister. Unpaid bribes are also said to have led to a bombing in Karchi that killed 11 French engineers.
Judges are looking into Sarkozy’s 2007 successful presidential campaign regarding claims that it was funded by the Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
A criminal investigation is also looking into whether a French tycoon called Bernard Tapie was rewarded with 400 millon euros for supporting Sarkozy in the 2007 elections.
Sarkozy has also been accused of exceeding legal spending limits in 2012 presidential campaign.