Gueant Lawyer Says Probe Linked to Taxes, Not Campaign Finance

Claude Gueant, the former French interior minister charged with money laundering, is being probed for avoiding taxes and not for illegally financing former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s election campaign, his lawyer said.

Gueant, 70, was questioned for 30 hours beginning Friday about a 500,000-euro ($542,200) transfer into an account, which he says came from the sale of two paintings by 17th-century Flemish artist Andries van Eertvelt.

“Instead of the so-called Libyan financing of the presidential campaign, we have a simple case of asking him to explain the sale of these famous paintings he acquired 22 years ago,” Gueant’s lawyer Philippe Bouchez el-Ghozi said on LCI television. “They are asking him simply to justify this sale and they blame him for not having declared the revenue.”

Gueant was interior minister under Sarkozy and is a close aide to the former president, who has returned to politics with an eye on the 2017 presidential elections.

Judges are investigating claims by Libyan officials that former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi contributed to Sarkozy’s successful 2007 presidential campaign. Sarkozy has denied receiving any money from Qaddafi.

According to Artprice, which tracks the art market, the highest price ever paid for a painting by van Eertvelt comparable to Gueant’s was 56,244 euros in 2007. The highest ever paid for a work by the artist was 140,000 euros in 2010 for a painting three times as large.

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