France: Nicolas Sarkozy questioned about illegal 2007 campaign funds


French President Nicolas Sarkozy gives a speech at the end of a crisis summit with unions representatives at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on January 18, 2012 to try and boost the French economy as recession looms and nearly three million people hunt for employment.


Remy de la Mauviniere

Former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy was questioned for 12 hours today by magistrates investigating whether he received illegal campaign contributions from Liliane Bettencourt, heiress of the L'Oreal cosmetics empire, when he ran for office in 2007, Reuters reported.

In France, individuals can only donate up to €4,600 ($5,930) to presidential campaigns, and each presidential hopeful is limited to spending only €22 million ($28 million) on their entire campaign, the Associated Press reported.

However, an accountant told officials that Bettencourt, now 90 and said to be suffering from Alzheimer’s, sent €150,000 ($192,000) to Sarkozy's campaign treasurer through an intermediary, the AP reported.

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According to Reuters:

Sarkozy denies any wrongdoing, but any drawn-out legal investigation could damage his chances of running on the 2017 presidential election, something one recent poll showed 52 percent of his party's supporters want.

The magistrates have designated Sarkozy a witness in the inquiry, which means that unless new findings come to light that would change his status, the former president will not face trial at the end of the investigation, Reuters reported.

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