Nicolas Sarkozy investigated for illegal campaign financing from France's richest woman

(Michel Euler/AP)

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is being formally investigated for campaign financing which he received in 2007 from Liliane Bettencourt, 90, who is the richest woman in France and heir to the L’Oreal empire.

There are concerns that Sarkozy could have abused Bettencourt’s frailty while soliciting thousands of Euros to help fund his campaign.

The formal investigation does not mean that Sarkozy will necessarily stand trial, but a judge’s decision allowing the investigation to go ahead has lead other right-leaning politicians to defend the former president’s record, reports The New York Times. “It’s a political act,” lawmaker Thierry Mariani told Le Monde. “Certain magistrates have grudges to settle with the former president of the republic, and have hidden political urges.”

Sarkozy, for his part, says he met Bettencourt only once in the run up to him campaign. Bettencourt’s butler, however, says the pair met on multiple occasions and that the two developed a friendly relationship while Sarkozy was the mayor of a wealthy Parisian suburb, reports BBC News. Bettencourt’s staff members allege that Sarkozy received 150,000 Euros from their employer during the 2007 campaign, well over the 4,600-Euro limit for individual campaign donations in France. There are also concerns that Benttencourt was “not in full command of her mental faculties” at the time the Sarkozy received these alleged donations, reports The Telegraph.

Sarkozy was defeated by the left-learning François Hollande in May, after serving just one term. Should this investigation end with formal charges, it could put a damper on Sarkozy’s intention to run for president again in 2017.

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