Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been detained and was reportedly being questioned by financial investigators yesterday in a corruption probe that is rattling France’s conservative political establishment.
A judicial official said Sarkozy was in custody in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.
The official, who was not authorized to be publicly named discussing an ongoing investigation, would not provide further details.
French media reports said Sarkozy was being questioned in an investigation linked to financing for his 2007 presidential campaign. The case centers around whether Sarkozy and his lawyer were kept informed of insider information on the probe by a friendly magistrate.
Sarkozy and his lawyer have denied wrongdoing. His lawyer, Thierry Herzog, is also being held for questioning, according to French reports.
Investigators are basing their suspicions at least in part on tapped telephone conversations that Sarkozy has denounced and compared to actions by the secret police in the old East Germany.
The detention threatens to further cloud Sarkozy’s reputation as he considers a political comeback after his 2012 defeat by French President Francois Hollande.
Allies from his conservative UMP party — which has been in leadership crisis because of questions over spending during Sarkozy’s 2012 presidential campaign — jumped to the former president’s defense.
“They have never imposed such treatment on a former president, with such a surge of hate,” lawmaker Christian Estrosi tweeted.
Former French president Jacques Chirac was convicted in a corruption investigation in 2011, after he left office, but when he was questioned in the case he was not held in police custody.
The Socialist government tried to stay above the fray.
“Justice officials are investigating, they should carry out the task to the end. Nicolas Sarkozy is a citizen answerable to justice like any other,” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said.
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