Ex-Sarkozy aide charged with bribery in election financing probe

Judges probing the financing of Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign, allegedly with cash from Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, charged the French ex-president’s former right-hand man Monday with taking bribes.

Claude Gueant, who was interior minister in Sarkozy’s government, was also charged with misuse of public funds and conspiracy in illegal campaign financing.

Gueant, who denies any wrongdoing, underwent a day of questioning last Tuesday, but “exercised his right to remain silent,” his lawyer Philippe Bouchez El Ghozi told AFP.

He was already facing tax fraud and forgery charges over a 500,000 euro ($585,000) transfer received from a Malaysian company in 2008, and the 2009 sale of a luxury villa in the south of France to a Libyan investment fund.

Suspicions were heightened when police documents seen by investigative website Mediapart showed Gueant withdrew just 800 euros in cash from his known bank accounts between 2003 and 2012, and paid for a 720,000-euro Parisian apartment in cash.

The inquiry was opened in 2013 after claims by several figures in Kadhafi’s ousted regime that Sarkozy’s campaign received cash from the dictator and his son Seif al-Islam.

It gained momentum in 2016 after Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine claimed to have delivered three suitcases stuffed with five million euros to Sarkozy and Gueant, then his chief of staff, in 2006 and 2007.

Sarkozy, who was charged in the case last March, has said he is the victim of a revenge campaign by former officials in Kadhafi’s regime and has vowed to clear his name.

After the charges were filed, and having failed in his comeback bid for the presidency in 2016, Sarkozy said he was “finished” with politics.

New Straits Times | September 17, 2018