The political fallout from an allegedly illegal Libyan campaign financing scandal continues to shake France, even as former president Nicolas Sarkozy strongly denies wrongdoing.
Sarkozy claims that he has been accused without physical proof and that allegations of Libya illegally financing his 2007 campaign have made his life hell, according to Sarkozy’s alleged statement to investigating magistrates, published Thursday by France’s center-right Le Figaro newspaper.
The 63-year-old Sarkozy is under formal investigation, a move that has shaken France’s political establishment. At issue are allegations he accepted millions of dollars from the regime of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to finance his successful 2007 presidential campaign.
If they prove true, they not only raise questions about the outcome of the vote, in which Sarkozy beat his Socialist rival, Segolene Royal, but also recast France’s rocky relations with Libya during his tenure.
Royal’s former campaign manager, Eric Menucci, told French radio that if true, the allegations carry immense consequences, not only for France but for Europe and the world.
Domestic political reactions have ranged from denouncing the investigation as a "spectacle," to praising an independent judiciary that puts nobody above the law.
Geopolitical analyst Philippe Moreau Defarges says the investigation marks a watershed in France. While this is not the first probe targeting an ex-French president - Sarkozy himself has faced others - it is particularly striking because it deals with Libyan money. And shortly after entering office, Sarkozy invited Gadhafi to Paris.
“Sarkozy is a former president of the Republic, and in France a president is untouchable. And now, he can be indicted like any other person on the street.”
Under Sarkozy, France later became a key player in 2011 NATO airstrikes in Libya that ultimately helped topple Gadhafi. That same year his son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, made his first allegations about the Libyan campaign financing.