Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Picture: REUTERS
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Picture: REUTERS

Paris — On Tuesday, former French president Nicolas Sarközy was taken into police custody for questioning over suspected Libyan financing of his 2007 election campaign, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.

Sarközy had, until now, refused to respond to a summons for questioning in the case, which drew heightened scrutiny in November 2016 when a businessman admitted delivering three cash-stuffed suitcases from the late Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi as contributions towards Sarközy’s first presidential bid.

Sarközy’s detention was first reported by the Mediapart investigative news site and French daily Le Monde and comes several weeks after a former associate, Alexandre Djouhri, was arrested in London and later released on bail.

Djouhri was returned to pre-trial detention in February after France issued a second warrant for his arrest, ahead of a hearing scheduled for March 28. A source close to the inquiry also said that Brice Hortefeux, a top government minister during Sarközy’s presidency, was also questioned on Tuesday as part of the inquiry.

Before his arrest in January, Djouhri, a Swiss resident, was well known among France’s right-wing political establishment, and had refused to respond to a summons for questioning in Paris. He has been a focus of the inquiry opened in 2013 by judges investigating earlier claims by Gaddafi and his son Seif al-Islam that they provided funds for Sarközy’s election effort.

Sarközy has dismissed the allegations as the claims of vindictive Libyan regime members furious over his participation in the US-led military intervention that ended Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.

Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine said he had made three trips from Tripoli to Paris in late 2006 and early 2007 with cash for Sarközy’s campaign. Each time he carried a suitcase containing €1.5m to €2m in €200 and €500 notes, Takieddine claimed in a French media interview, saying he was given the money by Gaddafi’s military intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi.