French police on Tuesday searched the home and offices of former President Nicolas Sarkozy in connection with an investigation into allegations of campaign finance violations, according to the French media.
In addition to searching the home Sarkozy shares with his wife Carla Bruni as well as the office he was given as a former head of state, the police is said to have raided a law firm in which the former president own shares.
The raids were part of an investigation into allegations that Sarkozy received tens of thousands of euros in illegal donations from France's richest woman and L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for financing his 2007 presidential campaign.
Under French laws, individual donations for election campaigns are limited to 4,600 euros ($5,800). It was earlier alleged that Sarkozy's aides were given 150,000 euros in cash by Bettencourt for his 2007 election campaign.
Also, Bettencourt's former accountant, Claire Thibout, insists that the cash donations were collected in person by Sarkozy's campaign treasurer Eric Woerth, who later became the budget minister in the previous government.
Woerth is already under criminal investigation over allegations that he misused his position as a minister to get Bettencourt's financial manager awarded with the Legion d'honneur, the country's highest award.
Further, Sarkozy is alleged to have made several private visits to Bettencourt's home during the 2007 election campaign. Nevertheless, Sarkozy admits to knowing Bettencourt well on a personal level, but has denied receiving any illegal cash donations from the L'Oreal heiress.
The developments come after Sarkozy was replaced as the French president by Socialist Francois Hollande after his defeat in the May presidential polls. The poll defeat effectively ended his presidential immunity from prosecution. Incidentally, Sarkozy is currently on a holiday in Canada along with his family.
by RTT Staff Writer
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