News / Europe

French Ex-President Investigated in Corruption Probe

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy leaves his residence in Paris, July 2, 2014.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy leaves his residence in Paris, July 2, 2014.
Lisa Bryant

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is under formal investigation in a tangled corruption inquiry that risks derailing his widely anticipated political comeback. 

Ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy returned home Wednesday with the news he was under formal investigation, after spending an unprecedented 15 hours in police custody outside Paris.  

Magistrates are looking into whether Sarkozy used his influence to interfere with a probe into alleged irregularities involving his 2007 election campaign.  His lawyer and a high ranking judge are also under investigation.

Interviewed on France's BFM television, Prime Minister Manuel Valls described the situation as serious.  He called for judicial independence and said nobody was above the law, but also that the presumption of innocence should be upheld.

The probe is the latest in a series of corruption scandals dogging Sarkozy.  This latest inquiry is linked to an investigation into whether he received illegal funding from former Libyan leader Moammar Gahdafi for his successful 2007 presidential campaign.  Magistrates are examining whether he tried to obtain inside information into the probe.

Sarkozy is not the first French president to face corruption allegations.  His predecessor, former conservative leader Jacques Chirac, was handed a suspended sentence in 2011, after being convicted of embezzlement and misusing public funds when he was Paris mayor.

Sarkozy was also under formal investigation last year, but magistrates dropped that probe.

The latest inquiry comes at a particularly delicate time.  Sarkozy has been widely expected to be eyeing a political comeback, after losing his 2012 reelection bid to Socialist, now president, Francois Hollande.  Today, says analyst Philippe Moreau Defarges, of the Paris-based French Institute for International Relations, the conservative leader is politically wounded.

"It will be very difficult for him to make a true comeback into the political arena.  And it is clear that what is happening to Mr. Sarkozy makes Mr. Hollande happy, but also Mr. Juppe [conservative rival and former prime minister Alain Juppe] and other people of the right very happy ... because it is clear that many people in France do not want the comeback of Mr. Sarkozy," he said.
 
Sarkozy has vehemently denied all allegations of misconduct, suggesting they are politically motivated.

Wednesday, supporters like Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi from Sarkozy's conservative UMP party rallied behind him.

Speaking on French radio, Estrosi questioned the impartiality of at least one of the judges probing the allegations, and accused the Socialist government of sowing hatred in the country.

The probe is likely to further deepen public disenchantment in their elected officials.  President Hollande is deeply unpopular, French are worried about joblessness and the sluggish economy and the far-right National Front Party surged in May elections for the European Parliament.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs