PARIS: Nicolas Sarkozy was taken into custody for questioning in a criminal investigation yesterday in an unprecedented move that could wreck the former president’s hopes of a political comeback.
The right-wing leader was detained at a police station in a Paris suburb in connection with a suspected attempt to illegally influence judicial proceedings in one of a raft of colourful corruption cases he is implicated in.
Sarkozy turned up at the station in Nanterre in a black saloon car with tinted windows at 8am (0600 GMT). He was still there nine hours later and can be held for up to 48 hours before he has to be charged or released.
His detention came a day after investigators took his longtime lawyer Thierry Herzog and two magistrates into custody in connection with alleged “influence peddling” and violation of judicial secrecy.
Investigators suspect Sarkozy attempted to obtain inside information from one of the magistrates about confidential proceedings in an illegal election financing case, and that he was tipped off by a senior figure when judges tapped his phones.
Sarkozy, 59, has faced virtually non-stop legal battles since he left office following his defeat by Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in the 2012 presidential vote. He had been expected to attempt a political comeback in time for the 2017 election, but those plans could be torpedoed if he is charged in this case.
He vehemently denies any wrongdoing and his allies on the right of the political spectrum denounced what they see as a witch-hunt against their man.
“Never before has a former president been subjected to such treatment, such an unleashing of hate,” said Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice and an MP for Sarkozy’s UMP party. AFP