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Alleged Libyan influence in the 2007 French elections

Nicolas Sarkozy's (left) 2007 presidential campaign allegedly received, through intermediaries, up to €50 million from Libya's Muammar Gaddafi (right).[1]

Alleged Libyan influence in the 2007 French elections purportedly took the form of Libya's covert and illicit bankrolling of the presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy with up to €50 million in pay-outs. Sarkozy has denied wrongdoing and rejected suggestions he was a Libyan agent of influence during his tenure as president of France.

Contents

BackgroundEdit

2007 electionEdit

In May 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy was elected President of France in a six-point victory over Ségolène Royal.[2] Sarkozy officially spent €21 million on his campaign.[3] The size of the campaign spend, relative to those seen in United States elections, prompted French scholar Sophie Meunier to later declare that "French politicians are, therefore, not enslaved to special interests or Super-PACs as they are in the U.S."[3]

During the 2007 French election, candidates were limited to spending no more than €21 million, and no single person could donate in excess of €7500 to a candidate.[4] In addition, the sources of donations had to be publicly declared and contributions from foreign nationals were prohibited.[5]

Libyan détente and later reversalEdit

The December following Sarkozy's inauguration as President of France, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi visited the country on Sarkozy's invitation but over the objections of both the political opposition, and members of Sarkozy's own government.[6] The visit marked the first time Gaddafi had been to France in more than 35 years and, during it, France agreed to sell Libya 21 Airbus aircraft and signed a nuclear cooperation agreement.[6] Negotiations for the purchase of more than a dozen Dassault Rafale fighter jets, plus military helicopters, were also initiated during the trip.[7]

In 2011 France, under Sarkozy, led calls for international intervention in the Libyan Civil War, voted in favor of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 and, subsequently, dispatched the French Air Force into direct military action in Libya in support of the National Transitional Council.[8] At the time, France explained the move was to protect Libyan civilians, however, in a private email from Sidney Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton - revealed as part of the 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak - Blumenthal claimed France was more concerned with Libya's large gold reserves which might pose a threat to the value of the Central African Franc, thereby displacing French influence in Africa, and that Sarkozy was interested in gaining more ready access to Libyan oil reserves.[5][9][a]

AllegationsEdit

The same month French forces were committed to the Libyan conflict, Saif-al-Islam Gaddafi gave an interview to euronews in which he first publicly claimed that the Libyan state had donated €50 million to Sarkozy's 2007 presidential campaign in exchange for access and favors by Sarkozy.[10] [11]

Sarkozy rejected the claim by Gaddafi.[10]

 
The sale of two Andries van Eertvelt (pictured) paintings by Claude Guéant has become a central question in the investigation.

The following October, the claim of Libyan funding of Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign was repeated by former Libyan prime minister Baghdadi Mahmudi.[10] Investigative website Mediapart subsequently published several documents appearing to prove a payment of €50 million, and also published a claim by Ziad Takieddine that he had personally handed three briefcases stuffed with cash to Sarkozy.[10][13] French magistrates later acquired diaries of former Libyan oil minister Shukri Ghanem in which payments to Sarkozy were mentioned.[14] Shortly thereafter, however, Ghanem was found dead, floating in the Danube in Austria and thereby preventing his corroboration of the diaries.[11][14]

In 2014, television station France 3 released an audio recording made by Delphine Minoui on March 16, 2011, during which Minoui interviewed Muammar Gaddafi.[15] In the recording, Gaddafi tells Minoui that Sarkozy had approached him seeking funds for his presidential election campaign while still serving as French interior minister.[15]

In February 2018 Asharq Al-Awsat quoted a source who alleged Sarkozy had promised Libyan representatives improved relations between France and Libya should he be elected president, and that he would wrap-up the matter of the bombing of UTA Flight 772.[16] As recently as 2018, Saif al-Islam reiterated his 2011 claim, and has since also added that a former officer of the Libyan intelligence service was at that time in possession of a recording of a meeting between Muammar Gaddafi and Sarkozy that occurred in Tripoli in 2007 and at which payments were discussed.[17]

InvestigationEdit

In 2013 the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ) officially opened an investigation into the allegations of Libyan funding of Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign.[18][19] In March 2018, Sarkozy-era interior minister Brice Hortefeux voluntarily appeared before French police for questioning.[13] Several arrests have been made in relation to the inquiry.

Arrests and chargesEdit

Name Arrested? Charged? Background and status
 
Claude Guéant
Yes
March 6, 2015
Yes
March 7, 2015
Guéant, the former chief of staff to Sarkozy, was arrested and charged in March 2015 with money laundering and forgery in relation to the alleged Libyan funding affair.[20] According to investigators, Guéant helped facilitate the transfer of Libyan funds and may have received $500,000 for his efforts, however, Guéant has claimed the money came from his sale of two Andries van Eertvelt paintings to a Malaysian attorney, with the sale arranged by Saudi businessman Khalid Bugshan.[21] Authorities allege the transfer of the paintings, which were competitively valued at $35,000, was organized by Bugshan as a means of laundering the purported Libyan payment.[21]
Khalid Ali Bugshan Yes
March 6, 2015
No Saudi businessman Khalid Ali Bugshan was taken into police custody for questioning the same day as Claude Guéant.[22]
François Guéant Yes
March 30, 2015
No François Guéant, the son of Claude Guéant, was taken into police custody in March 2015 for questioning over the alleged affair in a matter separate from his father's sale of van Eertvelt paintings.[23]
 
Alexandre Djouhri
Yes
January 9, 2018
No Djouhri was arrested by British police at Heathrow Airport on a European Arrest Warrant which had been issued after he refused to appear at a court in Paris for questioning over the Libyan affair.[24] Djouhri resisted extradition to France, with attorneys claiming the inquiry was politically motivated and expressing concern about French prison conditions.[25] He was released on $1.4 million bail pending the outcome of his appeal of the arrest warrant, but was ultimately returned to France and placed in pre-trial detention in advance of a hearing scheduled for March 28, 2018[25][26]

Djouhri, a French citizen of Algerian heritage who resides in Switzerland, is alleged to have sold a €4.4 million villa in the south of France to the Bashir Saleh Bashir-managed Libya Africa Investment Portfolio for €10 million.[27] The overpayment was purportedly used to launder funds to Sarkozy.[27]

 
Nicolas Sarkozy
Yes
March 20, 2018
Yes
March 21, 2018
Sarkozy was detained by French police for questioning in March 2018, during which he was held at the Nanterre station of the DCPJ, west of Paris.[18][5]

On March 21 he was charged with corruption.[28][29] Officially, Sarkozy is under formal investigation, meaning judicial authorities have been presented with sufficient evidence by police to begin a full inquiry by an investigating magistrate, which would possibly lead to a trial.[30]

ReactionEdit

Sarkozy's political party, The Republicans, issued a statement following his arrest in which it said the former president had the party's full support.[31] Spokesman Christian Jacob later suggested that the accusations against Sarkozy were politically motivated.[31]

Following Sarkozy's arrest, Eric Ciotti expressed confidence the former president would be exonerated.[32]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Blumenthal's analysis of Sarkozy's motivations has been rejected without arguments by former French diplomat Patrick Haimzadeh.[9]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Aurelien Breeden (23 March 2018). "Nicolas Sarkozy and the Libya Investigation: The Key Questions". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 March 2018. 
  2. ^ "The Gaullist revolutionary". The Economist. May 10, 2007. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  3. ^ a b Meunier, Sophie (March 3, 2010). "The French Presidency Is a Bargain". HuffPost. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  4. ^ Christopher, Brennan (March 20, 2018). "Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in custody over Gaddafi money scandal". New York Daily News. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  5. ^ a b c Kennedy, Dana (March 20, 2018). "Gaddafi's Ghost Takes Revenge as France's Ex-President Sarkozy Detained for Questioning". Daily Beast. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  6. ^ a b "Gaddafi visit seals French deals". BBC News. December 10, 2007. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  7. ^ Walt, Vivienne (December 14, 2007). "French Defense Execs Woo Gaddafi". TIME. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  8. ^ Elliott, Michael (March 19, 2011). "Viewpoint: How Libya Became a French and British War". TIME. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  9. ^ a b Asher-Schapiro, Avi (January 12, 2016). "Libyan Oil, Gold, and Qaddafi: The Strange Email Sidney Blumenthal Sent Hillary Clinton In 2011". VICE News. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  10. ^ a b c d Chazan, David. "Sarkozy aide charged with money laundering". Telegraph. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  11. ^ a b "Explained: What we know about the Gaddafi-Sarkozy funding scandal". euronews. March 20, 2018. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  12. ^ "EXCLUSIVE - Gaddafi to Sarkozy: 'give us back our money'". euronews. March 16, 2011. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  13. ^ a b "French police hold ex-president Sarkozy over 'Gaddafi funding'". BBC News. March 20, 2018. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  14. ^ a b "Gaddafi relations haunt Sarkozy in 2007 campaign financing case". France24. March 20, 2018. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  15. ^ a b "Gaddafi funded 'mentally deficient' Sarkozy, interview claims". France 24. January 29, 2014. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  16. ^ "Qaddafi regime funded presidential campaigns in US, Ukraine, France". The National (Abu Dhabi). February 19, 2018. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  17. ^ Mumbere, Daniel (March 20, 2018). "Gaddafi's son, Saif al Islam welcomes Sarkozy arrest, offers evidence". Africa News. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  18. ^ a b Piel, Simon (March 20, 2018). "Financement libyen de la campagne de 2007 : Nicolas Sarkozy en garde à vue En savoir plus sur". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  19. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (April 19, 2013). "French inquiry opens into allegations Gaddafi funded Sarkozy 2007 campaign". The Guardian. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  20. ^ Chazan, David (March 7, 2015). "Sarkozy aide charged with money laundering". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  21. ^ a b Lazard, Violette (July 20, 2015). "Les fausses pistes des tableaux de Claude Guéant". L'Obs (in French). Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  22. ^ "Affaire Guéant: qui est l'homme d'affaires saoudien placé en garde à vue?". L'Express. March 7, 2015. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  23. ^ "Le fils de Guéant en garde à vue dans l'affaire des soupçons de financement libyen de la campagne de Sarkozy". HuffPost France. March 31, 2016. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  24. ^ "UK arrests French suspect in Sarkozy financing probe". France24. January 8, 2018. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  25. ^ a b "France 'manipulating' case against businessman sought over Sarkozy allegations: lawyer". Reuters. February 22, 2018. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  26. ^ "Sarkozy held in Libya financing probe". Malaysian Insight. March 20, 2018. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  27. ^ a b Wintour, Patrick (January 10, 2018). "UK court grants £1m bail to man arrested over Sarkozy-Gaddafi inquiry". The Guardian. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  28. ^ Dallison, Paul (March 21, 2018). "Nicolas Sarkozy charged with corruption". Politico. Retrieved March 21, 2018. 
  29. ^ "French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy charged in campaign funding investigation". Deutsche Welle. March 21, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018. 
  30. ^ "Sarkozy placed under formal investigation for illegal campaign financing in Libya probe". France24. March 21, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018. 
  31. ^ a b Chazan, David (March 20, 2018). "Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy questioned in election financing probe". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved March 20, 2018. 
  32. ^ "Réaction d'Eric Ciotti à la garde à vue de Nicolas Sarkozy". France Bleu. March 20, 2018. Retrieved March 20, 2018.