[QODLink]
Europe
French police search Sarkozy home and office
Investigators look through ex-president's belongings for clues into alleged illegal financing of political campaign.
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2012 02:04

French investigators have searched former President Nicolas Sarkozy's home and office.

The raids were part of a probe into suspected illegal financing of his 2007 presidential campaign by the L'Oreal cosmetics heiress, an official said on Tuesday.

Potential legal troubles have threatened Sarkozy since he lost the presidency to Socialist Francois Hollande in May elections.

Sarkozy, who lost his immunity from prosecution on June 15, denies wrongdoing.

Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said the raids a day after his client had left for Canada on holiday would show nothing and that he had already supplied information to investigators that debunked suspicions of secret meetings with Bettencourt.

"These raids ... will as expected prove futile," Herzog said in a statement.

Judge Jean-Michel Gentil and other investigators from the Paris financial crimes unit conducted the search of Sarkozy's home and offices.

"Ten police accompanying the investigating magistrate raided the office of Sarkozy, raided his home and raided the home of his lawyer," said Al Jazeera's Peter Sharp, reporting from Paris.

The probe centers on the finances of France's richest woman, L'Oreal cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

Family tension

A long-running family feud over her fortune ballooned in 2010 into a multi-layered investigation and political affair.

Allegations emerged that Bettencourt provided illegal campaign cash to Sarkozy's party during the 2007 campaign. The former president vigorously denies the claims.

The allegations struck a chord with Sarkozy's critics, who were frustrated with his handling of the recession-hit economy and saw him as too close to the rich.

An accountant for Bettencourt said in 2010 that she gave 50,000 euros in cash in 2007 to Sarkozy's party treasurer for the presidential campaign - well beyond the 4,600 euros legal limit on individual donations.

A book released last year suggested that Sarkozy himself received undeclared campaign money. But Sarkozy denies the claims.

Herzog said magistrates looking into whether Sarkozy had received campaign funds from the now mentally fragile Bettencourt had been supplied with diary details of all Sarkozy appointments in 2007.

Those details, he said, "prove that the purported 'secret meetings' with Madame Liliane Bettencourt were impossible".

The case also stirred up debate over media freedom. Le Monde filed a lawsuit accusing Sarkozy's office of using counterintelligence services to identify a source leaking information about the investigation.

Sarkozy's office said it had never given such instructions to an intelligence agency.

402

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.