Nanterre: Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been detained and was reportedly being questioned by financial investigators on Tuesday in a corruption probe that is rattling France’s conservative political establishment.
A judicial official said Sarkozy was in custody in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. The official, who was not authorized to be publicly named discussing an ongoing investigation, would not provide further details.
French media reports say Sarkozy is being questioned in an investigation linked to financing for his 2007 presidential campaign. The case centres around whether Sarkozy and his lawyer were kept informed of insider information on the investigation by a friendly magistrate.
Sarkozy and his lawyer have denied wrongdoing. His lawyer, Thierry Herzog, is also being held for questioning, according to French news reports.
Investigators are basing suspicions at least in part on tapped phone conversations that Sarkozy has denounced and compared to actions by the secret police in the old East Germany.
The detention threatens to further cloud Sarkozy’s reputation as he considers a political comeback after his 2012 defeat by President Francois Hollande.
Allies from his conservative UMP party, which has been in leadership crisis because of questions over spending during Sarkozy’s 2012 presidential campaign, jumped to the former president’s defense. “They have never imposed such treatment on a former president, with such a surge of hate,” lawmaker Christian Estrosi tweeted on Tuesday morning.
Former French President Jacques Chirac was convicted in a corruption investigation in 2011, after he left office, but when he was questioned in the case, he was not held in police custody.
The Socialist government tried to stay above the fray. “Justice officials are investigating, they should carry out the task to the end. Nicolas Sarkozy is a citizen answerable to justice like any other,” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said on i-Tele television.