PARIS – Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s legal misery rose on Friday when prosecutors said he was facing a new charge in a lengthy investigation into possible illegal Libyan funding of his 2007 presidential campaign.
The relationship has put a serious dent in the renewed political hopes of Mr. Sarkozy, president from 2007 to 2012, and still supported by millions of French center-right French voters. On Friday, after a new round of interrogations by investigating judges in Paris, prosecutors said Sarkozy had been charged with criminal conspiracy linking him to the actions of a former assistant, Thierry Gaubert, accused of having received hundreds of thousands of dollars in Libyan money through a bank account in the Bahamas
So far, concrete evidence for Mr. Sarkozy’s sake has been sparse. But in 2016, French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, also charged and now on the run, said since he was convinced in a separate case that he had handed over nearly $ 6 million to Mr. Sarkozy and an aide in late 2006 and early 2007 Investigators have determined that Mr. Takieddine’s bank accounts were fed by the regime of the now dead Libyan strongman Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Whether the new indictment will bring Mr Sarkozy closer to the trial in the case, which was only opened the year after he left office, is unclear. On Friday, the former president, best known for harsh talk about illegal immigrants, Islamic terrorism and crime, strongly maintained his innocence.
“I learned about these new charges with the greatest anesthesia,” wrote Mr. Sarkozy on Facebook Friday. “Once again, my innocence is being trampled on by a decision that does not carry the slightest evidence of any illegal funding,” he wrote.
In addition to the Libyan funding affair, Mr Sarkozy is involved in two other cases in which he has been ordered to be prosecuted, one involving attempts to obtain confidential information from a judge and the other for exceeding campaign funding limits.
Despite his legal problems, Mr Sarkozy has managed to remain a force in French center-right French politics. His advice is still sought by many in the Republican political party whose makeover he constructed, and even by President Emmanuel Macron. The French news media regularly report on the contacts between the two men, and Mr Macron’s shift to the right in the last part of his presidency owes much to the themes that Sarkozy highlights.
Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting from Aix-en-Provence, France.