Gaddafi, Tapie and Bettencourt: Nicholas Sarkozy's scandals are catching up as he talks about return to political stage

Fresh allegations emerge over former French President's link to the Libyan dictator amid further controversies

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The Independent Online

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s past is catching up with him in the week that he began to talk openly about his hopes for a political future.

Fresh allegations have emerged this week about the illicit funding of Mr Sarkozy’s political career by the late Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.

Separately, Mr Sarkozy and close allies face renewed suspicions about an allegedly over-generous €403 state compensation payment to the disgraced French tycoon Bernard Tapie in 2008.

In a development in a third alleged scandal, the ex-President’s lawyers will ask an appeal court in Bordeaux tomorrow to quash a formal accusation of that Mr Sarkozy took illicit campaign money from France’s wealthiest woman, Liliane Bettencourt when her mental faculties were waning in 2007. The court is expected to reject the request.

At an appearance at a financial conference in London this week, Mr Sarkozy said that he would consider ending his political retirement if he was “needed”.  His hopes of running for president for a third time in 2017 depend, however, on the outcome of three separate criminal inquiries.

The newspaper Le Monde reported today that four former officials in the Gaddafi regime had offered to give evidence to French magistrates who are investigating alleged Libyan payments to Mr Sarkozy in 2006-7.  According to Le Monde, their lawyer, Marcel Ceccaldi, has told investigators that  €50m was handed to a Sarkozy emissary by the brother of a close aide of Gaddafi in 2006.

According to the newspaper, a CIA internal note in November 2011 reported a €5m payment by Libya  to Mr Sarkozy’s former chief of staff and interior minister, Claude Guéant in 2007.

Separately, another team of investigating magistrates last week formally accused a senior French judge, Pierre Estoup, 86, of taking part in a “conspiracy with others” to defraud the French state by giving an over-generous compensation payment to Bernard Tapie in 2008.  Mr Estoup was one of three judges who sat on an informal tribunal which offered €403m to Mr Tapie -  a friend of Mr Sarkozy - for his alleged losses when a state-owned bank mis-sold his sports company, Adidas, in 1993.

According to leaks to the French media, the magistrates are investigating the possibility that the unnamed  “others” in the alleged conspiracy included the then President of the Republic, Mr Sarkozy.