Sarkozy Campaign-Funding Charges in Bettencourt Case Dropped

French investigative magistrates have dropped charges against former President Nicolas Sarkozy over allegations he took advantage of the mental frailty of heiress Liliane Bettencourt to fund his 2007 electoral campaign, Agence France-Presse reported, citing unnamed people close to the case.

Ten other people, including former Budget Minister Eric Woerth, will have to stand trial next year, AFP said.

A spokeswoman for Sarkozy didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages. Sarkozy didn’t answer questions from journalists as he emerged from a lunch at the Paris mosque, AFP reported.

The magistrates placed Sarkozy under formal investigation last March 21, even though the Bordeaux prosecutor had recommended dropping the case against the former president for lack of evidence. The case had been moved to Bordeaux in a search of an impartial venue.

Sarkozy has always denied any wrongdoing. He has said he had visited the 90-year-old daughter of the founder of the L’Oreal SA cosmetics company, but simply in his role of mayor of Neuilly, the Paris suburb where Bettencourt has one of her homes.

The death of her husband Andre Bettencourt in November 2007 set in motion a family dispute over how Liliane, France’s richest woman according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index, disposed of her fortune and whether she was mentally fit to make such decisions.

Sarkozy faces several other cases, including one involving a French submarine sale to Pakistan and another related alleged campaign funds from late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

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