Sarkozy Detained in Probe Over Influence Peddling: AFP

Nicolas Sarkozy is being held as part of a probe into influence peddling, Agence France-Presse reported, making it the first time a former French president has been detained.

Repeated calls to French prosecutors’ offices and to Sarkozy’s spokeswoman went unanswered. Sarkozy’s lawyer Thierry Herzog was detained yesterday as part of the same probe.

The probe is centered on whether some judges were keeping Sarkozy and Herzog informed about the state of play of investigations into the former president’s campaign financing, Le Monde reported yesterday. Magistrates have up to 48 hours to decide whether to charge Sarkozy.

“Nicolas Sarkozy is a citizen like any other,” French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said on i-Tele television. “He benefits from the presumption of innocence.” Le Foll denied that the current government has anything to do with the probes into Sarkozy.

Television footage showed Sarkozy arriving at 8 a.m. this morning in Nanterre to be questioned by a special anti-corruption team of magistrates.

Paris judges are working on three cases involving the former president, Le Monde said. They’re probing whether his campaign got illegal political funding from Libya’s former leader Muammar Qaddafi; the circumstances surrounding money Sarkozy is alleged to have received from L’Oreal SA heiress Liliane Bettencourt; and his role in former-Finance Minister Christine Lagarde’s decision on an arbitration settlement with French businessman Bernard Tapie.

It was the telephone tapping used as part of the Qaddafi probe that led to the influence-peddling investigation, Le Monde said.

After initially saying he’d quit politics following his loss to Francois Hollande in the presidential election of May 2012, Sarkozy has made trips across France since the start of this year, and even had a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hinting at his intention to run for office in 2017.

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