The former President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, suffered the indignity of a "raid" on their home yesterday by police investigating illegal campaign financing.
Officers searched for incriminating documents at Ms Bruni-Sarkozy's mansion in western Paris, Mr Sarkozy's former law firm and an office in central Paris he was given as a former head of state. Mr Sarkozy, pictured, and his wife are on holiday in Canada.
The investigations centre on alleged illegal cash financing of Mr Sarkozy's successful 2007 presidential campaign by France's wealthiest woman, the L'Oréal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt. According to evidence given by some witnesses, but disputed by others, Ms Bettencourt may have paid up to €400,000 to Mr Sarkozy's campaign treasurer or to the future president directly.
Mr Sarkozy's presidential immunity from prosecution – and even from questioning – expired two weeks ago. He is expected to be questioned in the next few weeks. A judge could decide to treat the former President simply as a witness or to place him under formal investigation for breaking electoral law. The offence can be punishable by a jail sentence but is most often punished by a fine.
Mr Sarkozy has adamantly denied any knowledge of illegal financing of his 2007 campaign. Testimony by a Swiss lawyer and members of Ms Bettencourt's entourage and entries in a diary point to the possibility of cash payments of at least €400,000. An April 2007 entry in a diary kept by Ms Bettencourt's friend, the playboy photographer, François-Marie Banier, quotes Ms Bettencourt as saying: "De Maistre told me that Sarkozy had asked for more money. I said yes."
Sarkozy also faces media allegations that Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi financed his 2007 campaign. His name is mentioned in investigations into the 1995 presidential run by Edoaurd Balladur.