Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has lost his bid to throw out an inquiry into claims he used Libyan cash for his 2007 presidential campaign, a ruling that could require him and several associates to stand trial.
Sarkozy, 65, denies accusations by former members of Muammar Gaddafi’s leadership that he took millions from the slain Libyan ruler, some of it delivered in cash-stuffed suitcases, in his successful presidential run.
The scandal came to light in 2012, when investigative website Mediapart published a document purporting to show that Gaddafi agreed to give Sarkozy up to 50 million euros ($58 million or $67.6 million at today’s rates).
Sarkozy’s lawyer declined to comment after the hearing on whether he would appeal the decision to France’s top criminal court.
But the failed legal challenge means the inquiry by two anti-corruption judges can continue, though it remains uncertain if they will eventually seek a trial.
It is not the only legal headache for Sarkozy, who has enjoyed renewed popularity since retiring, with his memoirs seeing strong sales.
He has also been charged in two other cases, one relating to fake invoices devised to mask overspending on his failed 2012 re-election campaign, and another for alleged influence peddling involving a top judge.
He is set to go on trial in the second case on October 5, when he will become France’s first ex-president in the dock for corruption.
In 2011, as NATO-backed forces were driving Gaddafi out of power, the long-time Libyan leader’s youngest son Saif al-Islam, told the Euronews network: “Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign.”
Sarkozy dismissed the allegations as rantings of vindictive Gaddafi loyalists who were furious over the French-led military intervention in Libya that helped end Gaddafi’s 41-year rule and ultimately led to his death.
Sarkozy, who retired from politics after a failed comeback attempt for the 2017 presidential vote, has accused the Paris judiciary of hounding him.