Nicolas Sarkozy under Investigation in Bettencourt Scandal

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the World Economic Forum in 2011Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr.com

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the World Economic Forum in 2011
Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr.com

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been accused of accepting millions of euros from the 90-year-old L’Oréal Heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, for his 2007 election campaign. He allegedly took advantage of Bettencourt’s deteriorating mental state and solicited her for funds to finance his campaign.

While an investigation into the legality of Sarkozy’s campaign finances began in 2010, this accusation is the first to be brought to court. A Bordeaux judge summoned Sarkozy on March 21 to begin the formal investigation into the allegations, and charged him with “abus de faibless (exploitation of fragility). Sarkozy denies the charges.

The judge’s decision was met with immediate criticism from several French politicians, particularly those from Sarkozy’s own party UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire). Claude Guéant, Sarkozy’s former chief of staff, accused the judge, Jean-Michel Gentil, of political motivation behind the charges.

Guéant argued that Gentil sought to take advantage of the fact that current President François Hollande’s government is dealing with the fallout stemming from the resignation of Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac.

Guéant added that the charges were “completely slanderous.” Sarkozy maintains that neither he nor his party accepted any funds from Bettencourt. However, a butler who worked for Bettencourt testified that Sarkozy visited the house frequently and directly received envelopes filled with cash, or had them passed through his party treasurer, Éric Woerth.

More than a dozen others have been put under investigation, and if judge and prosecutors find sufficient evidence, they could bring Sarkozy to trial. If found guilty, Sarkozy could be sentenced for up to three years in prison, a fine of up to 375,000 euros, and a five-year ban on standing for public office.

With recent murmurs that he will return to run for President in 2017, this investigation could seriously impact Sarkozy’s prospects and open the way for a new right-wing leader to step into the fold.

Among those clamoring for the candidacy are François Fillion and Jean-François Copé, two major players on the right.

Trackbacks

  1. […] the most shocking. On Thursday night, March 21, Judge Jean-Michel Gentil put the former President, Nicolas Sarkozy, under formal investigation for the abuse of the state of weakness for his 2007 encounters with […]

  2. […] main judge presiding over the case investigating former French President Nicolas Sarkozy for taking advantage of elderly French […]

  3. […] the midst of the formal investigation launched last month into his campaign finances for the 2007 Presidential Campaign, former French […]

  4. […] Sarkozy’s Chief of Staff and right-hand man, Claude Guéant, faces new scrutiny following the investigation into Sarkozy’s questionable campaign […]

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