Nicolas Sarkozy's links with Muammar Gaddafi have come under fresh scrutiny after a businessman admitted delivering three cash-stuffed suitcases from the late Libyan leader towards the Frenchman's first presidential bid.
In an interview with the Mediapart investigative news site, Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine has said he made three trips from Tripoli to Paris in late 2006 and early 2007 with cash for Sarkozy's campaign.
Each time he carried a suitcase containing between 1.5 and 2m euros in 200-euro and 500-euro notes, Takieddine told the site in a video interview, saying he was given the money by Abdallah Senussi, Gaddafi's military intelligence chief.
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Sarkozy, 61, seeking to return to power as French president, denied on Tuesday receiving money from Gaddafi to fund his election bid, calling claims by Takieddine a "crude manipulation".
During questioning in a separate case, Takieddine accused Sarkozy of having been in Gaddafi's pocket in 2006-07 but he had never previously claimed to be the bagman.
The allegations against Sarkozy first emerged in March 2011, when the French leader was campaigning for the NATO-led military intervention that helped overthrow Gaddafi.
"Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign," said Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, who is now in jail in Libya.
A year later, as Sarkozy was campaigning for a second term, Mediapart published a document signed by Musa Kusa, the former Libyan intelligence boss, referring to an agreement for 50m euros [$54m at current rates] in backing from Tripoli.
Sarkozy, who lost his 2012 re-election bid, vigorously denied the allegations, claiming the document was a fake.
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Takieddine's video testimony comes five days before Sarkozy goes up against Alain Juppe, the former French prime minister, and other rivals in a primary to choose the candidate of the French right in next year's presidential vote.
The first round of the two-stage primary takes place on Sunday.
Sarkozy, who is trailing presidential front-runner Juppe in opinion polls, is embroiled in several scandals.
He has been charged with influence peddling in a separate affair and with illegal financing of his 2012 campaign.
Sarkozy has accused the judiciary of trying to block his comeback ambitions.