Sarkozy placed under investigation for illegal campaign financing

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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation on Tuesday for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his failed re-election campaign in 2012, prosecutors say.

The investigating judge placed Sarkozy, 61, under formal investigation on a charge of illegal campaign financing by exceeding the legal limit placed on election expenses. The decision came after Sarkozy was questioned throughout the day.

Sarkozy was also designed as an “assisted witness” – meaning he has not been charged but can be summoned for questioning at any time – in reference to allegations over the use of forged documents, fraud, and breach of trust.

The case centers on invoices from PR firm Bygmalion, which organized some of Sarkozy’s appearances during his re-election campaign and, rather than charging the campaign, sent the invoices to Sarkozy’s right-wing party UMP, which has since been renamed The Republicans.

By sending invoices totaling €18.5 million ($20.6 million) to the UMP, the Sarkozy campaign was able to avoid hitting the spending limit of €22.5 million euros ($25 million). This would mean the campaign’s actual costs were nearly double the legal limit.

Sarkozy, who is seen as a potential candidate in the 2017 presidential election, has emphasized that he was unaware of the fraud.

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