Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been charged with corruption, misappropriation of Libyan funds, and unlawful campaigning. It is alleged that Sarkozy accepted approximately $50 million in funds from former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi in 2006. Under Sarkozy’s rule, France later played a major role in the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, which unseated Gaddafi.
Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa, known as Nicolas Sarkozy, was born in 1955. The French politician started his political career as mayor of the Parisian suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine from 1983 to 2002. Sarkozy also served as Budget Minister from 1993-1995, and Minister of the Interior from 2002 and 2005.
Nicolas Sarkozy was elected as the President of France in May 2007. The same year, Sarkozy struck a $230 million arms deal with then President of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi was known as one of the longest rulers in the Arab world, ruling from 1969 to 2011, when civil war broke out in the country. Sarkozy helped spearhead the NATO offence against the Gaddafi regime. The civil war ended with the defeat of Gaddafi’s forces by the armed rebellion, which was assisted by Western (NATO) military intervention. Since Muammar Gaddafi’s death in 2011, Libya has been in a state of political unrest.
Sarkozy served until 2012 and ran for re-election the following year, however, he lost to François Hollande. Polls showed that while running for re-election, his approval ratings were at an unprecedented 36% low.
Sarkozy has faced a number of scandals during his career. He earned the nickname “President bling-bling” due to his brash and unapologetic nature, and penchant for grabbing media attention. In 2010, it was alleged that billionaire heiress Liliane Bettencourt had illegally funded Sarkozy’s presidential campaign. The charges against Sarkozy in the “Bettencourt affair” were later dropped.
In 2017, the former president also faced a trial regarding illegal campaign funding for his 2012 Presidential election campaign. He was accused of exceeding campaign spending limits using false accounting. The incident was dubbed the “Bygmalion affair” due to the involvement of the communication firm Bygmalion. He was briefly placed in police custody in 2015, over separate allegations of illegal campaign funding, and attempting to influence judges.
Sarkozy has now been placed under investigation due to his dealings with the late Libyan dictator Gaddafi. The former French President has been charged with corruption, illegal election financing, and appropriating Libyan public funds.
In 2012, French Media agency Mediapart released records of a $68 million transaction to Sarkozy, which they claim was signed by Libya’s intelligence chief. This allegation, if true, could be evidence of illegal campaign funding. The legal limit for election campaigns in France is $24 million.
The investigation into these dealings began in 2013. A number of the late Libyan President’s supporters have corroborated the fact that Gaddafi funded Sarkozy’s campaign. In November 2016, arms dealer Ziad Takieddine claimed that in 2006, he had personally enabled the transfer of $6 million in cash from Gaddafi to Sarkozy’s chief of staff Claude Gueant.
Sarkozy has sued Mediapart for producing what he claims are fake documents. He has maintained his innocence. “I stand accused without any tangible evidence through comments made by Mr Gaddafi, his son, his nephew, his cousin, his spokesman, his former prime minister,” he reportedly said. In a televised interview on Thursday, Sarkozy sent on to describe Gaddafi as a “crazy man who likely used drugs”, and Gaddafi’s supporters as a “band of killers, crooks, and mafiosos.”
Sarkozy has called the allegations “crazy” and “monstrous”, and claimed that they have made his life a personal “hell”. “I have never betrayed the trust of the French people,” Sarkozy told reporters. The former President has faced two days of police investigation regarding this case.
The investigation has sparked questions regarding the legitimacy of a number of Sarkozy’s decisions while President. “There are real questions about this 2011 war with France where Nicolas Sarkozy overstepped the mandate of the United Nations, to the point where a regime was overthrown," Mediapart editor Edwy Plenel told Al Jazeera. “One can [only] wonder if there was not a dimension of private war to destroy the evidence.”
Our assessment is that this investigation has grave implications, beyond issues of campaign funding. If Sarkozy is implicated, it will raise serious concerns regarding the motivations behind his 2011 campaign against the late Libyan dictator. While Sarkozy will likely make a plea, we believe that it is possible that this investigation will lead to trial.