The Sarkozy camp are reacting strongly today against explosive allegations that former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi had offered $66 million to the 2007 campaign of the French president, who is now battling for reelection, according to Reuters.
The investigative journalism website Mediapart yesterday published a letter purportedly from the former Libyan intelligence services in which the government expressed “agreement in principle” to provide the sum of 50 million euros.
More from GlobalPost: Gaddafi offered Sarkozy $66 million to finance his 2007 campaign: report
The Sarkozy camp took to the media today, saying Mediapart was financed by friends of the Socialist front-runner François Hollande and that the document was a fake.
Reuters also quoted an explicit denial from Bashir Saleh, Gaddafi’s former Cabinet chief, who Mediapart had said had been in charge of overseeing the payments.
In a statement sent to Reuters by his lawyer, Saleh is quoted as expressing “the most explicit reservations as to the authenticity of the memo published by Mediapart and conveniently presented as constituting proof of financing of the 2007 campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy.”
Saleh also said he had “never been the recipient of such a document and categorically denied having participated in a meeting on Oct 6, 2006 during which an agreement was supposedly reached to determine the means of financial support for the 2007 presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy.”
Mediapart had published a commentary by the Libya businessman Ziad Takieddine, who, contrary to the note, said he had not been present for a meeting at which the payments were allegedly discussed.
Takieddine nevertheless said he found the memo “credible.”
According to Reuters, Sarkozy appeared on the cable broadcaster Canal+, angrily denying the Mediapart allegations: “When I think that there are journalists who dare to give credibility to the sons of Gaddafi, to the Gaddafi’s secret services…” he said.
“Fifty million euros, why not a hundred? For a campaign that cost twenty?"
“We must agree: my campaign was financed by the Pakistani submarines, by Mr. Gaddafi or by Mme Bettencourt,” he said, ironically referring to a judicial investigation in which the president was accused of personally accepting illicit contributions from Liliane Bettencourt, the heiress heiress to the L’Oréal fortune.
Also appearing on television, Reuters said, French Prime Minister François Fillon likewise said the supposed Libyan memo was a “fake,” adding “all these stinking wads are coming out in a scandalous manner,” and accusing Mediapart of doing the bidding of financial backers close to the socialist party.
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According to the evening newspaper Le Monde, Edwy Plenel, the editor in chief of Mediapart, published a statement in rebuttal in which he said “François Fillon is indeed misinformed.” The majority shareholders in Mediapart “are the founding journalists who financed it with their savings,” he said.
“Mediapart stands by the seriousness and the credibility of its information, the fruit of months of investigation into the relations maintained since 2005 by the inner circle of Nicolas Sarkozy with the dictatorial regime of Colonel Gaddafi.”
A week before the May 6 second round of the presidential elections, Hollande is maintaining his lead over Sarkozy but the gap is narrowing, according to a poll published today (PDF) by the LH2 institute on behalf of Yahoo! news.
Hollande maintains an eight-point advantage over Sarkozy at 56 percent, the poll found.