Nicolas Sarkozy is in trouble again — and a deep one at that. The former French president has been detained by police in an influence peddling case, which is related to a probe into election funding for his 2007 presidential campaign. The Center-right leader was detained in Nantes near Paris yesterday for questioning over allegations that he tried to seek insider information about the probe into his election campaign funding. Sarkozy was the French president from 2007 to 2012, an often tumultuous period for him during which he ran into several controversies. The flashy leader also had a turbulent personal life as his wife separated shortly after he took over the presidency.
Super Sarko, as he was often called by the French, rode a wave of popularity during his presidency, despite the controversies he generated. Sarkozy’s troubles today are a legacy of his election campaign. He was earlier accused of taking advantage of the mental frailties of L’Oreal heiress Lilian Betencourt to make her give him a large sum of money to finance his campaign. The Betencourt case drew global attention and was the fodder for France’s notorious tabloid press for a long time, before the suit was thrown out in 2013.
Another campaign controversy emerged when Sarkozy was accused of taking funds for his campaign from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed after an uprising sparked by the Arab revolts. The Gaddafi taint remains as the case hasn’t been decided in court.
Sarkozy’s detention stems from accusations that he tried to seek insider information from a judge who told him of his phone being tapped as part of the investigation. The case has created interest in France and sparked outrage among Sarkozy’s supporters as he became the first former French president to be questioned in police custody.
The flamboyant Sarkozy, who used to jog on Paris streets as president, has high stakes at this time of his political career as he was eyeing a comeback as president in 2017. The police can hold him for 24 hours that can be extended to 48 after which charges can be pressed or he can be let off. If charged, chances of his comeback will be dented. He could also lose the chance of heading his UMP party if charges stick.
France has recently seen its leaders hog the headlines for the wrong reasons— Sarkozy and Hollande have both had rocky personal lives. President Francois Hollande was seen visiting a woman on the sly, which estranged his partner. This led to Hollande ending his relationship with his partner, who used to be the First Lady.
The glare is on Sarkozy again. And it might as well blind him. The authorities seem to be trying their best to nail him, claims of a political conspiracy notwithstanding. If he can weather the latest storm in his career, it would give him a chance to resuscitate his faltering political life.