PARIS — Paris prosecutors on Friday began investigating whether the winning presidential campaign of former President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 may have received illegal funding from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime.
The judicial investigation doesn't specify any suspect by name and centers on allegations of corruption, influence trafficking, forgery, abuse of public funds and money laundering, according to Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman with the Paris prosecutors' office.
The probe is based on claims by Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine during questioning by officials in December, she said. Allegations of Libyan financing for Sarkozy's campaign first emerged in French media last year in the waning days of his losing re-election bid against Socialist Francois Hollande – now France's president.
Sarkozy is facing other scrutiny of judicial investigators over the financing of his 2007 campaign. Last month, a Bordeaux judge filed preliminary charges against him over allegations that Sarkozy had illegally taken donations from France's richest woman in the 2007 election cycle.
Sarkozy has denied any wrongdoing. A phone message left for Sarkozy's lawyer wasn't immediately returned Friday.
The investigative news Web site Mediapart, which has broken news on a string of high-profile recent scandals in France, reported last year it had evidence that Gadhafi had offered campaign funds to Sarkozy. Prosecutors began investigating the publication after Sarkozy filed a suit against Mediapart for "forgery" and "publication of false news" last year – and the site's managers countersued for alleged slander.
Sarkozy had an up-and-down relationship with Gadhafi. Early in his five-year tenure, Sarkozy invited the Libyan leader to France for a state visit, but he put France in a key position in the NATO-led airstrikes against Gadhafi's troops that helped rebel fighters topple his regime in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Also on HuffPost:
<a href=" http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6106250.ece" target="_hplink">According</a> to the <em>Sunday Times</em>, Sarkozy said of President Obama: "[He] has a subtle mind, very clever and very charismatic...but he was elected two months ago and had never run a ministry. There are a certain number of things on which he has no position. And he is not always up to standard on decision-making and efficiency."
In Jonathan Alter's 2010 book <em>The Promise</em>, the author <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/10/sarkozy-sex-rumor-book-cl_n_569459.html" target="_hplink">claims</a> that Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni kept a senior head of state waiting while they had sex. Although the French first couple is notoriously late, many have speculated that the "senior head of state" in question is Queen Elizabeth II.
Of Angela Merkel, Sarkozy is quoted as <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/8269855/Nicolas-Sarkozys-gaffes.html" target="_hplink">saying</a> the German Chancellor had "no choice but to give in to my line."
During the height of the financial crisis, Sarkozy<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/gordon-brown/6341259/Nicolas-Sarkozy-tells-Gordon-Brown-I-love-you...-But-not-in-a-sexual-way.html" target="_hplink"> reportedly</a> told former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown: "You know, Gordon, I should not like you. You are Scottish, we have nothing in common and you are an economist. But somehow, Gordon, I love you... But not in a sexual way."
In reference to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Sarkozy <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6106250.ece" target="_hplink">reportedly</a> said, "Perhaps he's not very clever -- but I know people who were very clever and who did not make the second round of the presidential election."
In November 2007, Sarkozy was accused of <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/6532711/Berlin-Wall-anniversary-doubts-cast-over-Nicolas-Sarkozys-pickaxe-claim.html" target="_hplink">overstating</a> his part in the fall of the Berlin Wall, after he claimed to have rushed with a pickax in hand the night it fell. Archives suggested he only showed up a week later.
At a 2008 agricultural fair in Paris, Sarkozy got into a tiff with a member of the crowd who wouldn't shake his hand,<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL2454109820080224" target="_hplink"> reportedly</a> telling the man: "Get lost, you dumb a**."
Much like Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Sarkozy has been accused of racism, <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6106250.ece" target="_hplink">reportedly </a>telling a black priest, "My compliments, you are very suntanned," and an African boy, "I wish I had as much time to lie in the sun as you do."
In April 2010, Sarkozy scolded a young man at a rally in the city of Chambery on Thursday, yelling, "Fais pas le malin!" or "Don't be a wise guy," after the man pretended to wipe his hand after shaking the president's. A <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfEQEYbLn8w&feature=player_embedded" target="_hplink">clip</a> of the incident went viral shortly thereafter.
During a November 2010 NATO briefing, Sarkozy <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/23/nicolas-sarkozy-paedophiles-french-president" target="_hplink">reportedly</a> lashed out with a 10-minute diatribe against journalists, before walked off, declaring: "See you tomorrow, pedophile friends."