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May 18, 2022

Nicolas Sarkozy appears before judge to answer donation questions

Nicolas Sarkozy has gone before a judge to respond to suspicions he illegally accepted donations from France’s richest woman to fund his 2007 election campaign, The Telegraph reports.The judge in Bordeaux could decide whether the 57-year-old French former President will be charged with taking advantage of the 90-year-old L’Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt. Mr Sarkozy has consistently denied all allegations. Mr Sarkozy reportedly avoided journalists this morning by first sending a decoy vehicle before arriving by Renault Espace. Earlier he arrived in Bordeaux via private jet. More than a dozen policement blocked the entrance to the court house, barred to journalists. Mrs Bettencourt’s former accountant told police that she handed over 150,000 euros in cash she was told would be passed on to Mr Sarkozy’s campaign treasurer. In July, a magistrate ordered the seizure of Mr Sarkozy’s diaries. The sum shocked many French citizens because spending on political campaigns is tightly limited here. Individual campaign contributions to candidates are limited to 4,600 euros, and no candidate can spend more than 22 million euros on an entire presidential campaign. The French government reimburses some of that money to the winner.The investigation centres on the finances of Mrs Bettencourt, Europe’s richest woman and the focus of a long-running family feud over her fortune that ballooned in 2010 into a multilayered investigation and political affair. Mrs Bettencourt, who was reported to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, has since been placed under legal protection.Mr Sarkozy lost his immunity from prosecution when he lost the presidency to Socialist Francois Hollande in May. Since then, his conservative UMP party has fallen into disarray. The former president’s ties to the wealthy alienated many in France, but he remains popular among the country’s conservatives despite the legal problems that have dogged him since leaving office. Mr Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, told the Sipa news agency that after Thursday’s hearing Sarkozy could either face preliminary charges or be given special witness status with the possibility of facing charges later.

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