Nicolas Sarkozy has been accused of receiving money from the controversial late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to help fund the former French president's successful 2007 presidential campaign, Reuters reported Tuesday. The allegations, which first surfaced five years ago, could derail his attempts to secure the Republican Party nomination in France’s 2017 presidential election.
The latest accusations came from Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, who told French news site Mediapart that he introduced the two leaders and traveled from Tripoli to Paris during 2006 and 2007 to deliver cash to Sarkozy and his chief of staff, Claude Guéant, on three separate occasions, according to reports. In a video released by Mediapart on Tuesday, Takieddine said he delivered anywhere between 1.5 to 2 million euros ($1.6 million to $2.1 million) in 200 and 500 euro notes to Sarkozy from Gaddafi's military intelligence chief, Abdallah Senussi.
Sarkozy, who served as France’s president from 2007 to 2012, denied the claims Tuesday and called Takieddine’s allegations a “crude manipulation,” Reuters reported.
The first time Sarkozy was accused of taking money from Gadhafi was back in March 2011 when the French leader was running the NATO-led military campaign to overthrow Gadhafi. During that time, Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, who is now in jail, reportedly told members of the media that Sarkozy would have to return the money he took from Libya to fund his presidential campaign before Gadhafi would step down. In 2013, Takieddine followed up al-Islam’s claims and told France’s public prosecutor that Gadhafi had given money to Sarkozy to finance his election, which launched an investigation. However, Takieddine’s latest accusation was the first time he mentioned specifically how money was allegedly delivered to and accepted by Sarkozy.
Sarkozy has denied the accusations from the very beginning. In a statement to Reuters, Sarkozy’s lawyer Thierry Herzog said the Takieddine interview was just Mediapart’s way of “trying to taint” Sarkozy before an election.
Voting for the party’s primaries will be held on Sunday. Sarkozy was trailing Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé in recent polls.