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France’s ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy is being held for questioning by the police over allegations that he received campaign funding from the late Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Police are investigating alleged irregularities over the financing of his 2007 presidential campaign.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s former aide, Alexandre Djouhri, was also arrested in London recently.

The former president failed in a bid to return to power in 2012.

Photo Reuters

Nicolas Sarkozy TF1 interview: “French justice system is being used for political ends”

Nicolas Sarkozy’s phone tapped by French judges investigating Libya donations

According to judicial sources, Nicolas Sarkozy was being questioned in Nanterre, a suburb in western Paris.

In 2013, France opened an investigation into allegations that Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign had benefited from illicit funds from Muammar Gaddafi. Nicolas Sarkozy has denied wrongdoing.

The sources said one of Nicolas Sarkozy’s former ministers and a close ally, Brice Hortefeux, was also being questioned by police on March 20.

The allegations came from a French-Lebanese businessman, Ziad Takieddine, and some former Gaddafi regime officials.

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IMF managing director Christine Lagarde has gone on trial in France for negligence over a compensation payment made by a state-owned bank to Bernard Tapie in 2008.

As finance minister of then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, Christine Lagarde approved an award of €404 million ($429 million) to Bernard Tapie for the disputed sale of a company.

Bernard Tapie had supported Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election.

Christine Lagarde, 60, is accused of allowing the misuse of public funds, rather than corruption. She denies wrongdoing.

The case originates in the early 1990s, when Bernard Tapie was a majority shareholder in sports goods company Adidas.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

After launching a political career and becoming a cabinet minister in Francois Mitterrand’s Socialist government in 1992, Bernard Tapie had to sell the company.

In 1993, Tapie sued Credit Lyonnais, a state-owned bank that handled the sale, alleging that the bank had defrauded him by deliberately undervaluing the firm.

By 2007, the long-running case was referred by Christine Lagarde to binding arbitration. A three-member panel awarded the compensation a year later, causing a public outcry.

In 2015, after eight more years of legal wrangling, a French court ruled that Bernard Tapie had not been entitled to compensation and should repay the €404 million.

Christine Lagarde is now facing the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR) on charges of “negligence by a person in position of public authority”.

The court, composed mostly of politicians rather than judges, handles allegations of crimes committed by cabinet ministers. If convicted, she could face one year in prison.

Christine Lagarde replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF managing director in 2011.

DSK – also a former French finance minister – resigned following his arrest in New York on charges of assault that were later dropped.

France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy has been knocked out of the first round of the conservatives’ primary to choose the presidential candidate of the center-right Republican party.

Admitting defeat, Nicolas Sarkozy endorsed Francois Fillon, a moderate who finished first in November 20 first round, according to near-complete results.

Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his return to French politics

Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his return to French politics

Alain Juppe, who like Francois Fillon is an ex-prime minister, finished second.

They will face each other in a run-off on November 27. The winner will compete in next year’s presidential election.

The winner of the Republican primary is likely to make the presidential run-off, where he or she will probably face far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

With the governing socialists unpopular and divided, it seems unlikely that any left-wing candidate will survive the first round in April.

Polls currently suggest that the center-right candidate would win the second round in May.

France’s ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy should stand trial for breaching campaign spending limits, the French prosecutor’s office has recommended.

The announcement follows a long investigation into claims that Nicolas Sarkozy’s then-UMP party falsified accounts in order to hide 18 million euros ($20 million) of spending in 2012.

Nicolas Sarkozy lost the 2012 race to Francois Hollande, but is hoping to run again in 2017 election.

The former president said he left it to subordinates to raise campaign funds.

Nicolas Sarkozy is to be investigated over accusations of a breach of secrecy in alleged corruption case Karachi affair

Nicolas Sarkozy is to be investigated over accusations of a breach of secrecy in alleged corruption case Karachi affair

The advice from the prosecutor’s office in Paris is not definitive – an investigating magistrate will now make a final decision over whether Nicolas Sarkozy should stand trial.

The prosecutor says that, as the candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy was ultimately responsible for his own campaign – and in any case there is also considerable evidence he was warned at the time of the risks of over-spending.

To become nominee for The Republicans, the party he renamed from the UMP, Nicolas Sarkozy will have to defeat ex-prime minister and mayor of Bordeaux Alain Juppe, whom he trails in opinion polls.

The affair is known as the Bygmalion scandal. It centers on claims that Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, then known as the UMP, connived with a friendly PR company to hide the true cost of his 2012 presidential election campaign.

France sets limits on campaign spending, and it is alleged Bygmalion invoiced Nicolas Sarkozy’s party rather than the campaign, allowing the UMP to exceed the limit.

Bygmalion employees have admitted knowledge of the ruse and several UMP members already face charges.

However, Nicolas Sarkozy has repeatedly denied that he was aware of the overspending.

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IMF head Christine Lagarde is facing trial French trial for alleged negligence over a €404 million ($438 million) payment to businessman Bernard Tapie in 2008.

Christine Lagarde, 59, was finance minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government at the time of the compensation award to Bernard Tapie for the sale of a company.

Bernard Tapie supported Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election.

Christine Lagarde’s lawyer described the court’s decision as “incomprehensible”, and said the IMF chief would appeal.

In a statement Christine Lagarde said she had “always acted in this affair in the interest of the state and in respect of the law”, AP reported.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Bernard Tapie was once a majority shareholder in sports goods company Adidas but sold it in 1993 in order to become a cabinet minister in Francois Mitterrand’s Socialist government.

He sued the Credit Lyonnais bank over its handling of the sale, alleging that the partly state-owned bank had defrauded him by deliberately undervaluing the company.

Bernard Lagarde’s case was later referred by Christine Lagarde to a three-member arbitration panel which awarded the compensation, causing a public outcry.

Investigators suspect he was granted a deal in return for his support of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Earlier this month, a French court ruled that Bernard Tapie was not entitled to any compensation for that sale and should pay back the €404 million with interest.

France’s Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR) decided that Christine Lagarde should be tried on the charge of “negligence by a person in position of public authority” over the compensation case, iTele TV channel and the Mediapart website reported on December 17.

A court spokesman later confirmed the decision.

If convicted, Christine Lagarde could be sentenced to one year in prison.

French media said the CJR investigation magistrates declined to follow the recommendation of another court which last year decided not to pursue the case.

“It’s incomprehensible,” Christine Lagarde’s lawyer Yves Repiquet told iTele.

“I will recommend Mrs. Lagarde appeal against this decision.”

A spokesman for France’s attorney general said Christine Lagarde would have five days to appeal, once the court decision is made public on December 18 or December 21.

Meanwhile, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said the organization – which represents 188 member nations – “continues to express its confidence in the managing director’s ability to effectively carry out her duties”.

Christine Lagarde replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF managing director in 2011.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn – also a former French minister – resigned following his arrest in New York on charges of assault that were later dropped.

Marine Le Pen’s Front National (National Front) appears to have made big gains in France’s first round of regional elections, estimates show.

They put the far-right National Front ahead in at least six of 13 regions in mainland France.

The elections are the first electoral test since last month’s Paris attacks, in which 130 people were killed.

The center-right Republicans party led by former President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to be in second place ahead of the governing Socialist Party.

A second round of voting will be held on December 13.

As the results became clear, the Socialist party said it was withdrawing from the second round in at least two regions, in the north and the south, to try to block a run-off victory for the FN.

Exit polls from December 2 vote predicted that the FN had won 30.8% of the vote, followed by Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicans on 27.2% and President Francois Hollande’s Socialists with 22.7%.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

FN leader Marine Le Pen, who stood in the northern region of Nord-Pas-De-Calais-Picardie, and her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who stood in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur in the south, both looked to have won more than 40% of the vote, polls predicted, breaking previous records for the party.

Marine Le Pen told supporters it was a “magnificent result” which proved the FN was “without contest the first party of France”.

In previous years, the center-right opposition and governing Socialist party have worked together to block the FN.

However, Nicolas Sarkozy said there would be no “tactical alliances” in the second round.

French regions have wide powers over local transport, education and economic development.

The far right has been steadily gaining votes over the past few years from both left- and right-wing sympathizers through a mix of nationalist and pro-welfare policies.

In the lead-up to the election, opinion polls suggested that the popularity of the anti-immigration, anti-EU National Front had increased since the Paris attacks on November 13.

The election has been held under a state of emergency declared after the Paris attacks, which were claimed by Islamic State militants.

The FN is hoping a strong performance will boost Marine Le Pen’s chances for the 2017 presidential election.

Meanwhile, the government’s response to the Paris attacks has boosted President Francois Hollande’s approval ratings – they have soared more than 30 percentage points to 50%.

However, this surge in personal popularity has so far not translated into greater approval for Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party, which is trailing with about 22%.

PM Manuel Valls made an “appeal to patriotism” on December 3 in an effort to rally the Socialist vote.

Assemblies are being elected in the 13 regions of metropolitan France and in four overseas territories.

France is voting in regional elections, the first electoral test since last month’s Paris attacks, in which 130 people were killed.

According to opinion polls, there will be a strong showing for the far-right National Front (FN).

The center-right led by former President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to win in most regions at the expense of the governing Socialist Party.

December 6 first round will be followed by a run-off on December 13.

French regions have wide powers over local transport, education and economic development.

The election is also being closely watched after opinion polls suggested the popularity of the anti-immigration, anti-EU National Front had increased since the attacks on November 13.France regional elections 2015

National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen is likely to win in the northern region of Nord-Pas-De-Calais-Picardie, while her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen is a leading contender in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur in the south.

It would be the first time the FN has captured any of France’s regions. The party is hoping a strong performance will boost Marine Le Pen’s chances for the 2017 presidential election.

Both Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Republicains party and the FN appear to be heading for about 30% of votes, according to opinion polls, but President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party is trailing on about 22%.

PM Manuel Valls made an “appeal to patriotism” on December 3 in an effort to rally the Socialist vote.

The election is being held under a state of emergency which was declared after the Paris attacks.

On December 4, the Belgian prosecutor’s office said police were seeking two new suspects accused of aiding the fugitive suspect from the Paris attacks Salah Abdeslam, who lived in Belgium.

They are “armed and dangerous” and are thought to have helped Salah Abdeslam travel to Hungary in September.

Investigators say Salah Abdeslam may have driven the suicide bombers at the Stade de France to their target on the night of the Paris attacks.

However, Salah Abdeslam’s precise role in the attacks remains unclear. There are suggestions he was meant to carry out a suicide attack on the night but decided against it.

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US ambassador to Paris has been summoned by the French foreign ministry over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors, officials say.

Whistleblower website WikiLeaks reports the NSA spied on Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006 and 2012.

President Francois Hollande called an emergency meeting and said France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security.

The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, added that the US was “not targeting and will not target the communications of Mr. Hollande”.

The NSA has previously been accused of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Brazilian and Mexican leaders.NSA spying on France

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned US Ambassador Jane Hartley to discuss the latest claims, French officials said.

Jane Hartley is expected to visit the foreign ministry in Paris on June 24.

A statement from the French presidency said the US must respect a promise not to spy on French leaders. The statement came after an emergency meeting of security chiefs in Paris.

A senior French intelligence official is meanwhile expected to visit Washington to discuss the spying claims.

WikiLeaks began publishing the files on June 23, under the heading “Espionnage Elysee” – a reference to the French presidential palace.

It said the secret files “derive from directly targeted NSA surveillance of the communications” of the three French presidents as well as French ministers and the ambassador to the US.

The WikiLeaks files have now been published by France’s Liberation newspaper and the Mediapart investigative website.

One of the files, dated 2012, is about Francois Hollande discussing Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone. Another one – from 2011 – alleges that Nicolas Sarkozy was determined to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly without US involvement.

A file dated 2010 suggests that French officials were aware that the US was spying upon them and intended to complain about it.

According to the summary of an intercepted exchange, the French envoy to Washington and Nicolas Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser discussed Sarkozy’s plan to express his “frustration” over US unwillingness to sign a “bilateral intelligence co-operation agreement”.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s Conservative UMP Party and its allies appear to have come first in the final round of French local elections.

The UMP appeared set to secure more than 60 local councils, exit polls suggested, up from 41.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front also appeared to have made gains, while the ruling Socialists and their allies may lose about 30 departments.

These elections are seen as a test case ahead of 2017’s presidential election.

Paris and Lyon, France’s two biggest cities, were excluded from Sunday’s election.

The National Front appeared to have won a significant number of seats in Sunday’s second round of elections, but it was not clear if it had gained control of any councils, the exit polls said.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Marine Le Pen hailed a “historic” day for the FN, saying: “I thank all our voters for this magnificent success.”

PM Manuel Valls admitted that the Socialist Party had lost ground, and said that the rise in the National Front’s popularity showed a lasting change in France’s political landscape.

He vowed to redouble efforts to boost the economy.

Nicolas Sarkozy said voters had rejected the policies of his successor as president, Francois Hollande.

“Never has our political family won so many councils,” he told supporters.

Francois Hollande has suffered from slumping personal ratings, boosted only briefly by his response to January’s terror attacks in Paris.

French voters have been electing representatives in 101 departments, or counties, charged with issues like schools and welfare.

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Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party and its allies have taken first place in the first round of French local elections, partial results show.

Projections suggest that Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front (FN) – despite strong gains – came second with about 25% of the vote, behind the conservatives on about 30%.

President Francois Hollande’s governing Socialists came third with 21%.

Voters are electing representatives in 101 departments, or counties, charged with issues like schools and welfare.

The results mean the second round on March 29 will see a run-off between the UMP and the FN in many constituencies.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy said outcome of the elections demonstrated “the French people’s profound desire for change”.

“The conditions for a massive swing back to the right and the centre are in place,” he added.

Nicolas Sarkozy also ruled out any “local or national” deals with the FN in constituencies where one of the two parties was involved in run-offs with the Socialists.

In the past, voters for rival parties have rallied against the far right group in the second round of voting.

The poor results for the Socialists follows on from their defeats in municipal and EU elections last year.

Some polls ahead of the vote had indicated that Marine Le Pen’s FN could come top in the first round.

Marine Le Pen had been hoping the elections would build momentum ahead of her expected bid for the presidency in 2017.

Socialist PM Manuel Valls welcomed the news that the FN had scored less that some had predicted, saying the results showed it was not the strongest force in French politics.

However, Marine Le Pen called for Manuel Valls to resign, celebrating what she said was a “massive vote” for her party, exceeding its performance in the European Parliament elections.

For the first time, voters in these elections are not choosing single candidates – but pairs of candidates – one man and one woman – in order to enforce strict gender equality in local politics.

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According to French media, a corruption investigation against former President Nicolas Sarkozy has been suspended.

They quote judicial sources as saying that Paris appeals court will now study a request by Nicolas Sarkozy for the case to be dismissed.

Nicolas Sarkozy, 59, is still facing several other judicial investigations.

Last week he said he would seek the leadership of the opposition UMP party – the move widely seen as a first step towards a presidential bid in 2017.

Although Nicolas Sarkozy has kept a low profile since leaving office, he has faced a series of investigations that involve him in some capacity

Although Nicolas Sarkozy has kept a low profile since leaving office, he has faced a series of investigations that involve him in some capacity (photo AFP)

Nicolas Sarkozy’s announcement ended months of speculation about the intentions of the conservative former president, who vowed to give up politics after he failed to be re-elected in 2012.

The UMP party elections are due to be held in November.

Although Nicolas Sarkozy has kept a low profile since leaving office, he has faced a series of investigations that involve him in some capacity.

The suspended case relates to an alleged attempt to influence judges who were looking into his affairs.

The suspension could last several months, according to AFP news agency.

Other inquiries include one into his links with late Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi and another into illegal campaign funding in 2012.

Nicolas Sarkozy denies wrongdoing.

Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his return to French politics.

On his Facebook page, the former French president said he would seek the leadership of the opposition UMP party, widely seen as a first step towards a presidential bid in 2017.

Nicolas Sarkozy, 59, wrote: “I am a candidate to be president of my political family.”

The statement ends months of speculation about the intentions of Nicolas Sarkozy, who vowed to give up politics after he failed to be re-elected as president in 2012.

The UMP party elections are due to be held in November.

“After a lengthy period of reflection, I have decided to offer the French people a new political choice,” Nicolas Sarkozy wrote.

Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his return to French politics

Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his return to French politics (photo Facebook)

He said he could not “remain a spectator given the situation in which France finds itself, given the destruction of political debate and the persistence of the derisory splits within the opposition”.

Nicolas Sarkozy has many supporters who believe his energy are essential to pull France out of its current difficulties.

However, Nicolas Sarkozy remains a divisive figure. He was defeated by Francois Hollande in the 2012 election, becoming the first French president not to be re-elected for a second term since 1981.

Meanwhile, opinion polls suggest President Francois Hollande has now become the most unpopular French president in modern times.

Although Nicolas Sarkozy has kept a low profile since leaving office, he has faced a series of legal investigations that involve him in some capacity.

In July, he was placed under formal investigation on suspicion of seeking to influence judges who were looking into his affairs.

Other inquiries include one into Nicolas Sarkozy’s links with former Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi and another into illegal campaign funding in 2012. He denies any wrongdoing.

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French news website Atlantico has been ordered by a Paris court to remove the recordings of secretly taped conversations of Nicolas Sarkozy during his time as president.

Judges also sentenced Nicolas Sarkozy’s former aide, Patrick Buisson, to pay damages for making the recordings, some of which involved the former president’s wife Carla Bruni.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni took legal action after the audio appeared on Atlantico‘s website.

The website said it already taken down files featuring Carla Bruni because she was not a politician.

The so-called Sarkoleaks scandal, which broke in early March, caused turmoil in Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, the opposition centre-right UMP.

Although embarrassing, the transcripts were mostly harmless and contained no political bombshells.

Patrick Buisson has been ordered to pay damages for making the recordings involving Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni

Patrick Buisson has been ordered to pay damages for making the recordings involving Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni

On Friday, the court in Paris ordered Atlantico to immediately remove the files or face daily fines.

The court also ordered Patrick Buisson, 64, to pay 10,000 euros ($13,900) in damages to Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni. Lawyers for the couple welcomed the ruling.

A highly controversial figure whose political origins lie on the far-right, Patrick Buisson was credited with engineering Nicolas Sarkozy’s election win seven years ago by pushing him to toughen his stance on immigration and crime, correspondents say.

At the trial, it emerged that Patrick Buisson had recorded hundreds of hours of conversations, using a dictaphone kept in his pocket, during Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007-2012 term.

Patrick Buisson’s lawyer argued in court the tapes had been made to help him to keep a proper record of all discussions with Nicolas Sarkozy and other officials.

In the recordings, Nicolas Sarkozy is heard discussing confidential affairs of state but also sharing private chats with his wife, Carla Bruni.

At one point, Carla Bruni jokes about having to put her modeling career on hold while she was first lady.

“I thought I was marrying a guy with a salary,” she is heard saying.

“I had big contracts and now nothing.”

The leaks also contain excerpts in which top officials boast of their influence over Nicolas Sarkozy and express scorn over his wife’s presence at meetings at the Elysee.

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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has lost the confiscated diaries appeal in Bettencourt case.

The Court of Cassation has ruled investigators can retain the seized diaries and rejected Nicolas Sarkozy’s challenge to the seizure.

The diaries were initially confiscated as part of an inquiry into alleged illegal funding during his successful 2007 presidential campaign.

That case has since been dropped, but the diaries may be used in other investigations targeting Nicolas Sarkozy.

The former president, who lost his re-election bid in 2012, is planning a political comeback and correspondents say the drip of allegations has harmed him.

The diaries were seized after claims surfaced in 2010 that Nicolas Sarkozy had taken advantage of 90-year-old L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt when he was standing for president.

Nicolas Sarkozy has lost the confiscated diaries appeal in Bettencourt case

Nicolas Sarkozy has lost the confiscated diaries appeal in Bettencourt case

It was alleged that Liliane Bettencourt had given large sums of cash to Nicolas Sarkozy’s aides. Both Nicolas Sarkozy and Liliane Bettencourt denied this. Last October, Nicolas Sarkozy was removed from the list of defendants.

Lawyers for Nicolas Sarkozy argued that confiscating the diaries had been illegal.

But in Tuesday’s ruling, the Court of Cassation decided there was no need to rule on the issue as Nicolas Sarkozy was no longer a suspect in the case.

The ruling comes days after Le Monde newspaper reported that Nicolas Sarkozy had recently had his phone tapped on orders from judges investigating alleged campaign donations from late Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

The papers said the phone taps had revealed evidence of tampering with the justice system. Nicolas Sarkozy denies the claims.

French media say the diaries could be used in this case, and also in an investigation into allegations that French tycoon Bernard Tapie received a huge payout in 2007 to settle a long-running legal battle with the French state.

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New reports have claimed that Nicolas Sarkozy has had his phone tapped for the past year on the orders of judges investigating alleged campaign donations from Libya.

French newspaper Le Monde says the phone taps have revealed evidence of tampering with the justice system.

It says a senior prosecutor in the country’s highest court was feeding Nicolas Sarkozy confidential information.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s lawyer denies the claims and says the phone taps were illegal.

The investigators who ordered the taps were looking into allegations, unproven, that Nicolas Sarkozy had taken illegal payments for his election campaign from late Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Nicolas Sarkozy has had his phone tapped for the past year on the orders of judges investigating alleged campaign donations from Libya

Nicolas Sarkozy has had his phone tapped for the past year on the orders of judges investigating alleged campaign donations from Libya

According to Le Monde, what the investigators discovered from the phone taps was that Nicolas Sarkozy was getting inside information from the courts about the course of various inquiries into his past.

This information was allegedly being fed from a senior prosecutor at the appeals court whom, Le Monde says, Nicolas Sarkozy tried to reward with an official post in Monaco.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said on Friday that his client “is probably still being tapped” and denounced what he said was a politically motivated plot against him.

He told AFP news agency: “There was no attempt to pervert the course of justice and in due course this monstrous violation will be shown to have been a political affair.”

Nicolas Sarkozy is planning a political comeback, and the drip of allegations like this has the potential to do him harm.

It was in 2011 that Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, accused Nicolas Sarkozy of taking millions of his father’s money for illegal campaign funding, a claim Sarkozy has strongly denied.

At the time France was spearheading NATO’s military campaign in Libya.

NicolasSarkozy, who lost the 2012 presidential election to Francois Hollande, is also under formal investigation over claims he received illegal donations for the 2007 race from France’s richest woman, 90-year-old L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. He has denied all the allegations.

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Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni are to launch legal action after secret recordings of them were leaked online.

Lawyers for Nicolas Sarkozy say France’s former president and first lady will file a request for an injunction to prevent more from being published.

They say the recordings were made by a former aide, Patrick Buisson, without the couple’s knowledge.

Though embarrassing, the transcripts are unlikely to cause political damage, correspondents say.

Nicolas Sarkozy was said to be furious after it emerged that Patrick Buisson had recorded hundreds of hours of meetings and private conversations during his 2007-2012 term as French president.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni are to launch legal action after secret recordings of them were leaked online

Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni are to launch legal action after secret recordings of them were leaked online

In a statement, Patrick Buisson’s lawyer confirmed that the tapes had been made but claimed they had been done to help him to keep a proper record of all discussions with Nicolas Sarkozy and other officials.

Most of the recordings were destroyed and those that have been made public must have been stolen, the lawyer added.

Some of the recordings were published by satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaine and website Atlantico on Wednesday.

The initial revelations contain excerpts in which top officials express scorn over the presence of Nicolas Sarkozy’s wife at meetings at the Elysee.

They also suggest that Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was unhappy she had lost income when she married Nicolas Sarkozy, and hoped to boost her finances by advertising anti-ageing products.

Nicolas Sarkozy himself is shown to have been dismissive, even mocking, of the capacities of some of his ministers.

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The criminal investigation into Nicolas Sarkozy for allegedly soliciting secret campaign financing from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt has been dropped, French media say.

France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy has been left off a list of those to appear for trial over the “Bettencourt affair”, Le Monde reports.

Nicolas Sarkozy had denied visiting Liliane Bettencourt – alleged to be mentally frail – to solicit cash.

The decision could leave Nicolas Sarkozy clear to contest the 2017 election.

Nicolas Sarkozy has been left off a list of those to appear for trial over the Bettencourt affair

Nicolas Sarkozy has been left off a list of those to appear for trial over the Bettencourt affair

Although unpopular when he lost his attempt to be re-elected in 2012, opinion polls now suggest Nicolas Sarkozy would beat President Francois Hollande in a re-run.

The possibility of a criminal case against Nicolas Sarkozy has, therefore, gripped the media in France.

Liliane Bettencourt’s butler testified that Nicolas Sarkozy was a regular visitor to her home in the run-up to his first election victory in 2007.

It is alleged that one of Nicolas Sarkozy’s aides made separate visits, picking up envelopes stuffed full of cash.

Nicolas Sarkozy insisted that he only saw Liliane Bettencourt – known as France’s richest woman- once during 2007.

The argument came to a dramatic head in March, when a judge summoned both Nicolas Sarkozy and the butler for a face-to-face encounter, after which preliminary charges were filed against the former president.

Those charges have now been dropped, according to Le Monde newspaper and AFP news agency, which quoted a source close to the investigation.

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Carla Bruni has just shot her first major modelling campaign as the new face of Bulgari since her husband Nicolas Sarkozy left office.

Carla Bruni, 45, is on holiday in the South of France and revealed her enviable figure while looking picture perfect in a white bikini.

Carla Bruni showed off her enviable figure in white bikini in Cap Negre

Carla Bruni showed off her enviable figure in white bikini in Cap Negre

Looking as if she was considering taking the plunge, the former first lady of France was more than happy to show off her bikini body.

The white two-piece which many would be wary about wearing not only flattered her skin tone but suited her slim figure.

With her hair falling around her shoulders and a pair of shades covering her eyes, the songstress looked like a natural beach babe.

Sitting beside the water in Cap Negre Carla Bruni began to pull on her flippers to join her friend, who had braved the cool water before her.

Once in Carla Bruni clearly had a great time and emerged a short while later with her wet hair clinging to her back.

Later that day Carla Bruni reunited with her husband Nicolas Sarkozy as they attended the presentation of Julien Clerc as part of the festival of Ramatuelle.

France’s ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has been placed under formal investigation over claims his 2007 election campaign received illegal donations from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, France’s richest woman.

Nicolas Sarkozy is accused of accepting thousands of euros from Liliane Bettencourt, now aged 90.

The former president denies taking financial advantage of Liliane Bettencourt.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s lawyer said he would file an appeal against the “incoherent and unfair decision”, AFP news agency reports.

Magistrate Jean-Michel Gentil, who leads the inquiry, unexpectedly summoned Nicolas Sarkozy for a face-to-face encounter with Liliane Bettencourt’s butler, Pascal Bonnefoy, in the city of Bordeaux.

The judge wanted to determine how often Nicolas Sarkozy had met Liliane Bettencourt in 2007.

While Nicolas Sarkozy has maintained he only saw her once during that year, Pascal Bonnefoy gave a different account on Thursday.

Following the hearing, prosecutors said Nicolas sarkozy had been placed under formal investigation “for taking advantage of a vulnerable person during 2007 to the detriment of Liliane Bettencourt”.

Under French law the court’s decision falls short of a formal charge.

Investigators will press ahead with the enquiry before deciding whether he should face a trial.

Nicolas Sarkozy has been placed under formal investigation over claims his 2007 election campaign received illegal donations from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt

Nicolas Sarkozy has been placed under formal investigation over claims his 2007 election campaign received illegal donations from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt

Nicolas Sarkozy previously hinted that he was considering another tilt at the presidency in 2017. The outcome of the investigation could determine whether he will make a return to politics, observers say.

Police raided Nicolas Sarkozy’s home and offices last July after he lost his presidential immunity.

The former president was declared a material witness in November, which meant he was a suspect but had not been formally charged.

Nicolas Sarkozy met Liliane Bettencourt when he was mayor of the wealthiest suburb in Paris and forged a close friendship with her over the years.

He was a regular visitor to the family mansion, according to her staff.

It is alleged that staff acting for Liliane Bettencourt gave 150,000 euros in cash to Nicolas Sarkozy’s aides during his successful 2007 campaign to become president.

Individual campaign contributions in France are limited to 4,600 euros.

Liliane Bettencourt’s former accountant, Claire Thibout, has alleged Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign treasurer at the time – Eric Woerth, who later became budget minister – collected the cash in person.

Claire Thibout also revealed in a leaked police interview that Nicolas Sarkozy, while mayor of Neuilly from 1983 to 2002, paid “regular” visits to the Bettencourt house.

But Nicolas Sarkozy has dismissed as mere gossip claims that he took envelopes stuffed with cash.

“[The Bettencourt] never gave me a single penny and I never asked them for any,” he was quoted as saying by the Sud-Ouest newspaper.

Eric Woerth, who was forced to resign as UMP party treasurer in July as a result of the scandal, is already under formal investigation over the 150,000 euro payment allegations.

The allegations surrounding Nicolas Sarkozy and Eric Woerth first surfaced in connection with a trial over Liliane Bettencourt’s estimated 17 billion euro fortune.

Eric Woerth denies any wrongdoing, as does Liliane Bettencourt.

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French police have searched the Paris apartment of IMF chief Christine Lagarde, as they investigate her role in awarding financial compensation to businessman Bernard Tapie in 2008.

As finance minister, Christine Lagarde referred Bernard Tapie’s long-running dispute with bank Credit Lyonnais to an arbitration panel, which awarded him 400 million euros damages.

Bernard Tapie was a supporter of ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Critics say Christine Lagarde abused her authority but she denies any wrongdoing.

“This search will help uncover the truth, which will contribute to exonerating my client from any criminal wrongdoing,” Christine Lagarde’s lawyer, Yves Repiquet, told the Reuters news agency.

Investigators suspect Bernard Tapie was granted a deal in return for his support of President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 election.

There is speculation in France that Christine Lagarde could yet be placed under formal investigation in this case.

As finance minister, Christine Lagarde referred Bernard Tapie’s long-running dispute with bank Credit Lyonnais to an arbitration panel, which awarded him 400 million euros damages

As finance minister, Christine Lagarde referred Bernard Tapie’s long-running dispute with bank Credit Lyonnais to an arbitration panel, which awarded him 400 million euros damages

The origins of the case date back 20 years.

Bernard Tapie, who has long been active in French business, sporting and political circles, sued Credit Lyonnais over its handling of the sale in 1993 of sportswear brand Adidas, in which he was a majority stakeholder.

After years in the courts, the case was referred by Christine Lagarde to an arbitration panel in 2007 and she approved its decision to award damages.

Critics said the case should not have been settled by private arbitration, since public money was at stake in the bank, which was part-owned by the state.

The settlement Bernard Tapie received is believed to be a far greater sum than he would likely have received from the courts.

In an interview in January, Christine Lagarde stood by her decision, saying it was “the best solution at the time”.

Christine Lagarde replaced the disgraced IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was arrested in New York in 2011 on allegations of attempted rape.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers settled a civil case for an undisclosed sum and a criminal investigation was dropped by US prosecutors last year.

However, Christine Lagarde’s position at the IMF could be in jeopardy if she is placed under formal investigation.

Christine Lagarde’s term as IMF chief does not expire until 2016, but amid the complexities of Europe’s economic crisis this is a distraction she can ill afford.

Bernard Tapie case

  • 1993: Credit Lyonnais bank handles sale of Adidas, in which Bernard Tapie is a majority stakeholder
  • 1993-2007: Court battle drags on as Bernard Tapie claims Credit Lyonnais undervalued the sale and that he was cheated following the winding-up of the once publicly-owned bank
  • 2007: Bernard Tapie, a former Socialist, switches to support Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential election. Christine Lagarde, Nicolas Sarkozy’s finance minister, intervenes in the Tapie case to order binding arbitration
  • 2008: Special panel of judges rules Bernard Tapie should receive damages of 285 million euros (400 million after interest added)
  • 2011: Public prosecutor recommends judicial investigation into her actions

French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy is to be investigated over accusations of a breach of secrecy in an alleged corruption case, the “Karachi affair”, agency AFP reports.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s office had said in 2011 that the president was not named in any of the case documents.

Plaintiffs in the case say that was a violation of confidentiality.

The long-running investigation stems from the death of 11 French engineers in a bombing in Pakistan in 2002, which may have been linked to French bribes.

Nicolas Sarkozy is to be investigated over accusations of a breach of secrecy in alleged corruption case Karachi affair

Nicolas Sarkozy is to be investigated over accusations of a breach of secrecy in alleged corruption case Karachi affair

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The French conservative UMP party has chosen Jean-Francois Cope as its next leader after a tight election marred by claims of fraud and ballot-stuffing.

Jean-Francois Cope, an ally of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, won 50.03% of the vote, defeating ex-PM Francois Fillon, who polled 49.97%, by just 98 votes.

The final result was delayed for more than 24 hours.

Jean-Francois Cope, the UMP secretary general, is on the right of the party, while Francois Fillon is seen as more of a centrist.

Party grandees had urged the two candidates to end their war of words, warning that the UMP had been damaged.

Jean-Francois Cope, 48, said he had telephoned Francois Fillon, 58, to ask him to join him at the heart of the UMP “because our opponents are on the left”.

“My hands and my arms are wide open,” he told supporters after the result was announced.

“It is in that state of mind that I telephoned Francois Fillon this evening, it is in that state of mind that I asked him to join me.”

Francois Fillon, speaking after his rival’s victory speech, mentioned “many irregularities” in the electoral process but stopped short of rejecting the result.

He also warned of a deepening split in the UMP.

“What strikes me is the rift at the heart of our political camp, a political and moral fracture,” he said.

The French conservative UMP party has chosen Jean-Francois Cope as its next leader after a tight election marred by claims of fraud and ballot-stuffing

The French conservative UMP party has chosen Jean-Francois Cope as its next leader after a tight election marred by claims of fraud and ballot-stuffing

Opinion polls had consistently given Francois Fillon the edge, but initial results on Sunday showed a narrow lead for Jean-Francois Cope.

The UMP held the presidency of France for 17 years, until May, when Socialist candidate Francois Hollande defeated Nicolas Sarkozy’s bid for a second term.

The two candidates have different visions for the party.

Jean-Francois Cope is considered more right-wing. Last month he produced “A Manifesto for an Uninhibited Right” in which he claimed that gangs in the city suburbs were fostering “anti-white racism”.

Francois Fillon is seen as sober and more restrained.

The winner will inherit a party in difficult financial straits, after a series of electoral setbacks over the past five years, culminating in Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential defeat to Socialist rival Francois Hollande.

Jean-Francois Cope

  • Secretary-general of the UMP since November 2010
  • Aged 48 – born 5 May 1964 in Paris to Jewish parents of Romanian and Algerian origin
  • Divorced father-of-four

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A vote to decide who will lead France’s conservative opposition UMP has plunged the party into disarray and acrimony.

Both candidates, Jean-Francois Cope and Francois Fillon, have claimed victory and accused their rival of fraud and ballot-stuffing.

Only a handful of votes separate right-wing candidate Jean-Francois Cope and ex-Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

A final result is expected later on Monday, but party grandees said the UMP had been damaged, and urged both candidates to end their war or words.

“The movement has emerged divided and thus weakened by this excessive confrontation,” wrote the former prime minister and foreign minister, Alain Juppe, in his blog.

“Throughout the campaign, it has been less a question of the future of the UMP and more about the two candidates’ obsession with 2017 the date of the next presidential election.

“We have to get out of this lamentable situation to avoid the implosion of our party.”

Alain Juppe called on both Jean-Francois Cope, the party’s secretary general since 2010 and Francois Fillon, prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, to “accept the decision of the electoral commission when it is delivered”.

Jean-Francois Cope and Francois Fillon have claimed victory in France’ opposition election and accused their rival of fraud and ballot-stuffing

Jean-Francois Cope and Francois Fillon have claimed victory in France’ opposition election and accused their rival of fraud and ballot-stuffing

When initial results emerged late on Sunday, Jean-Francois Cope was narrowly in the lead, surprising political pundits who had expected the former prime minister to win. Opinion polls had consistently given Francois Fillon the edge.

The contest has been bitterly fought throughout by the two rivals and, even before the result came through in the southern coastal city of Nice, Jean-Francois Cope’s team complained of fraud and demanded an investigation.

A UMP deputy mayor backing Jean-Francois Cope said that there had been “a certain number of irregularities” in polling stations in the Alpes-Maritimes area. In one polling station in Paris, a party official complained that there were 40 more ballots than voters on the party list.

Francois Fillon’s team also registered a complaint.

The leading conservative daily newspaper, Le Figaro, called the election an open crisis and French political analysts say the immediate beneficiary of the vote could be the far-right National Front, whose candidate, Marine Le Pen, polled third in the presidential election in April.

The UMP was only created 10 years ago by President Jacques Chirac to unite the diverse wings of the French right.

The party was very much his personal fiefdom until he retired from politics in 2007 and was succeeded by Nicolas Sarkozy.

The two candidates have different visions for the party.

Jean-Francois Cope is considered more right wing. Last month he produced “A Manifesto for an Uninhibited Right” in which he claimed that gangs in the city suburbs were fostering “anti-white racism”.

Francois Fillon is seen as sober and more restrained.

The winner will inherit a party in difficult financial straits, after a series of electoral setbacks over the past five years, culminating in Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential defeat to Socialist rival Francois Hollande.

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Thomas Hollande, French president’s eldest son, has publicly attacked the country’s First Lady Valérie Trierweiler, accusing her of destroying the president’s election-winning “normal image”.

Thomas Hollande says he and his brothers and sisters have made it clear they no longer want to see their father’s partner, Valérie Trierweiler, after she helped destroy their mother Ségolène Royal’s political hopes with a jealous tweet.

Valérie Trierweiler, 47, used Twitter to express her support for the rival of François Hollande’s former partner Ségolène Royal days before France’s legislative elections last month.

Ségolène Royal, 58, went on to lose her parliamentary seat and saw her ambition to become the speaker of France’s Assemblée Nationale vanish with it.

In an interview with the news magazine Le Point, Thomas Hollande, 27, who was active behind the scenes in both his parents’ election campaigns, shatters any attempts by the Elysée Palace to paper over the domestic-turned-political spat.

“What I find reproachful about the tweet is that it put the private life into the public domain,” he told Le Point.

“It pained me on behalf of my father who absolutely detests anyone talking about his private life. It destroyed the normal image that he had constructed.”

Thomas Hollande, French president's eldest son, has publicly attacked the country's First Lady Valérie Trierweiler, accusing her of destroying the president's election-winning "normal image

Thomas Hollande, French president's eldest son, has publicly attacked the country's First Lady Valérie Trierweiler, accusing her of destroying the president's election-winning "normal image

During a long and bitter election campaign against Nicolas Sarkozy, 57, François Hollande, also 57, had presented himself as Monsieur Normal as a direct contrast to his predecessor’s flashy bling-bling image.

Valérie Trierweiler was portrayed as a more discreet and dignified alternative to the former first lady, supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, 44.

Thomas Hollande said his father was “stupefied” by the tweet, which was reportedly posted after his father and Valérie Trierweiler fell out over the president issuing an official message of support for Royal, who was standing for parliamentary in the coastal constituency of La Rochelle.

Shortly afterwards Valérie Trierweiler sent a message supporting SégolèneRoyal’s rival, Socialist party dissident Olivier Falorni, who went on to secure a convincing victory.

“I knew that she would do something one day, but not such a huge blow. It’s staggering,” said Thomas Hollande, one of the Hollande-Royal couple’s four children.

He said it was “only logical, no?” that he and his siblings no longer wished to have anything to do with Valérie Trierweiler, a journalist with Paris Match magazine, adding: “What matters is that relations with our father return to normal.”

Thomas Hollande, a lawyer, said he had a tête-à-tête dinner with his father who had asked him not to “add fuel to the fire” over the tweet, which caused a national scandal.

Le Point said the president was likely to refer to the tweet during the traditional 14 July Bastille Day speech, in which he is expected to clarify Valérie Trierwieler’s role.

The president’s son, however, had clearly ignored his father’s advice not to rake over the ashes of the row. Speaking of Valérie Trierweiler, he told Le Point the current situation was causing instability.

“Either she’s a journalist, or she has an office at the Elysée … and, above all, no more tweets,” he said.

He also said his mother had not abandoned her political ambitions, suggesting she could take up a government post.

“A minister? Why not, in a few months? In politics, one is never dead.”

Never far from Hollande’s side during the long election campaign, Valérie Trierweiler’s absence has been conspicuous since the offending tweet. On Monday François Hollande travelled to London to meet David Cameron and the Queen without his partner.

French commentators also pointed out that she had not accompanied the French leader to the G20 summit in Mexico. She is expected to be at François Hollande’s side during the official Bastille Day parade on Saturday on the Champs Elysées.

 

French police have carried out searches of the home and offices of former President Nicolas Sarkozy as part of a campaign financing probe.

A law firm in which Nicolas Sarkozy owns shares was also searched, reports say.

The investigation is related to allegations that Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential election campaign received illegal donations from France’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt.

Nicolas Sarkozy has previously denied all wrongdoing.

Tens of thousands of euros were allegedly funneled to Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign by Liliane Bettencourt's office

Tens of thousands of euros were allegedly funneled to Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign by Liliane Bettencourt's office

Nicolas Sarkozy is currently in Canada with his family, his lawyer Thierry Herzog told the AFP news agency.

In presidential elections in May, Nicolas Sarkozy lost to Socialist challenger Francois Hollande, and lost his immunity from prosecution in June.

Tens of thousands of euros were allegedly funneled to Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign by Liliane Bettencourt’s office.

Individual campaign contributions in France are limited to 4,600 euros ($5,800).