PARIS – Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants authorities to drop the investigation into alleged illegal funding of his 2007 campaign by the regime of late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, after a central accuser backtracked allegations that he had handed over to Sarkozy’s team the suitcases of Libyan money.
Sarkozy, who denies wrongdoing, has been charged with preliminary bribery in the case, under investigation since 2013.
The investigation gained momentum when the Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine told the Mediapart news site in 2016 that he had delivered suitcases from Libya containing 5 million euros (6.2 million dollars) in cash to Sarkozy and his former chief of staff.
On Wednesday, Takieddine turned his tune by telling Lebanon’s BFM television: “This is not true. Mr. Sarkozy did not receive funding… there was no funding for Sarkozy’s presidential campaign.
Sarkozy released a statement Wednesday night on social media saying: “The truth is finally emerging … he never gave me any money, there was never any illegal funding for my 2007 campaign.”
Sarkozy said he would ask investigators to drop the charges against him and prosecute Takieddine for defamation.
Investigators are examining allegations that the Gaddafi regime secretly gave Sarkozy a total of € 50 million for his winning French campaign in 2007. The sum was believed to be more than double the legal campaign finance limit at the time, 21 million euros, and violate French rules against campaign financing abroad.
Sarkozy’s relationship with Gaddafi was complicated. In 2007, Sarkozy welcomed Kadhafi to France with great honors. Sarkozy then put France at the forefront of the NATO-led airstrikes that helped rebel fighters topple Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.
Sarkozy and Takieddine faced other legal issues in France. The former president will stand trial later this month in an unrelated corruption case.