Nicolas Sarkozy received £42?million from Muammar Gaddafi in funding for his 2007 presidential election campaign, it was claimed on Monday.
By Henry Samuel, Paris
8:53PM GMT 12 Mar 2012
The “terms” for handing over the money were agreed in a meeting between the two men in Libya two years before Mr Sarkozy’s election, documents published by a French investigative website suggest.A memo obtained by the Mediapart site and handed to a judge alleges that the meeting on Oct 6, 2005 resulted in “campaign financing” of “NS [Nicolas Sarkozy]” being “totally paid”.
At the time Mr Sarkozy was France’s interior minister with well-documented ambitions to succeed Jacques Chirac. Political financing laws ban candidates from receiving cash payments above €7,500 (£6,300) but Mediapart claims that €50?million mentioned in the memo were laundered through bank accounts in Panama and Switzerland.
The Swiss account, it is alleged, was opened in the name of the sister of Jean-Francois Copé, the leader of Mr Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party and one of the most active campaigners for his re-election.
The memo claims that “ZT”, believed to be an arms dealer called Ziad Takieddine, known to have close ties with several of Mr Sarkozy’s most loyal aides, was “in charge of arrangements”.
It also mentions “several previous meetings” between Mr Takieddine and Saif-al Islam Gaddafi, Gaddafi’s son and former heir, who last year claimed that Libya had funded Mr Sarkozy’s election.
“Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We funded it. We have all the details and are ready to reveal everything,” said Saif-al Islam, currently held in Libya following the overthrow of his father’s regime.
“The first thing we want this clown to do is to give the money back to the Libyan people. He was given the assistance so he could help them, but he has disappointed us. Give us back our money.”
Mr Sarkozy provoked outrage among opposition figures and some members of his government when he welcomed Gaddafi to Paris in late 2007 when the Libyan dictator was permitted to pitch his tent next to the Elysée Palace.
But he was the first to recognise the Libyan opposition last year and French jets were the first to strike Gaddafi’s tanks in a military campaign that ended with the Libyan leader’s death.
The memo relates the testimony of Mr Takieddine’s former personal doctor, Didier Grosskopf, whom the dealer took on numerous trips to Libya, and who claimed he witnessed negotiations on party funding. Mr Takieddine cut off all relations with the doctor in 2006, when the memo was written.
Fabrice Arfi, the co-author of the Mediapart report, told The Daily Telegraph that Mr Grosskopf “wanted to put down in writing what he had witnessed in case anything happened to him because of what he knew”.
The memo also mentions the alleged presence of “BH”, Brice Hortefeux, one of Mr Sarkozy’s oldest friends who went on to become his interior minister and is now part of his campaign team.
Mr Hortefeux confirmed yesterday that the 2005 meeting took place but that “never was there any question of political financing whatsoever”.
The memo reached the investigating magistrate, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, as part of an inquiry into Mr Takieddine’s alleged role in party funding.
Mr Sarkozy on Monday night angrily denied the allegations he had received money from Gaddafi. “If he (Gaddafi) had financed it, then I haven’t been very grateful,” Mr Sarkozy said. “Gaddafi, who is known for talking nonsense, even said that there were cheques. Well then the son should just go ahead and produce them then.”
Mr Takieddine has denied involvement in any illegal party funding. When previously asked about Saif al-Islam’s claims, a spokesman for the Elysée Palace told Le Monde: “We deny it, quite evidently.”
Mr Takieddine declined to comment about the latest allegations.