The former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been taken into police custody to be questioned over allegations that he received millions of euros in illegal election campaign funding from the regime of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Sarkozy, who was France’s rightwing president from 2007 to 2012, was being questioned on Tuesday morning by police officers specialising in corruption, money laundering and tax evasion at their office in the western Parisian suburb of Nanterre, as part of an inquiry into whether Gaddafi and others in Libya illegally financed his winning election campaign in 2007.
The investigation is potentially France’s most explosive political financing scandal in decades. Sarkozy has repeatedly denied the allegations, dismissing the claims as “grotesque”.
It is the first time police have questioned Sarkozy over the allegations. A French inquiry into alleged illegal campaign funding from Libya was opened in 2013. The inquiry did not name anyone as a suspect, and has centred on claims of corruption, influence trafficking, forgery, abuse of public funds and money laundering.
Investigators are examining claims that Gaddafi’s regime secretly gave Sarkozy €50m overall for the 2007 campaign. Such a sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit, which was €21m at the time. The alleged payments would also violate French rules against foreign financing and declaring the source of campaign funds.
In April 2012, the investigative website Mediapart published a document it said was signed by a senior Libyan figure stating the regime approved a payment of €50m to “support” Sarkozy’s election campaign.
Previously Sarkozy and Claude Guéant, a close ally and former minister, claimed documents obtained by Mediapart were false. A French court later declared that certain documents were authentic, allowing them to be used in the long-running investigation.
Guéant has been officially put under investigation for organised fraud in the Gaddafi inquiry after allegedly receiving a bank transfer of €500,000, which he claimed had come from the sale of two paintings.
Sarkozy 63, had until now refused to respond to a summons for questioning in the case.
The investigation appeared to accelerate after Ziad Takieddine, a wealthy French-Lebanese businessman who was close to Gaddafi’s regime, told Mediapart in 2016that he had personally delivered suitcases stuffed with cash from the Libyan leader as payments towards Sarkozy’s campaign.
He said he made three trips from Tripoli to Paris in late 2006 and early 2007. Each time he carried a suitcase containing €1.5m to €2m in €200 and €500 notes, he claimed, saying he was given the money by Gaddafi’s military intelligence chief.
Sarkozy had a complex relationship with Gaddafi. Soon after becoming the French president, he invited the Libyan leader to France for a state visit and welcomed him with high honours. But Sarkozy then put France in the forefront of Nato-led airstrikes against Gaddafi’s troops that helped rebel fighters topple his regime in 2011.
In March 2011, Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi told Euronews: “Sarkozy has to give back the money he accepted from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We financed his campaign and we have the proof … The first thing we’re demanding is that this clown gives back the money to the Libyan people.”
Sarkozy has dismissed the allegations as the claims of vindictive Libyan regime members furious over his participation in the US-led military intervention that ended Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.
Sarkozy can be held for questioning for 48 hours. A lawyer for Sarkozy could not be reached immediately for comment.
Another former minister and close ally of Sarkozy, Brice Hortefeux, was also being questioned by police on Tuesday in relation to the Libya allegations, a source close to the investigation told Reuters.
In January, Alexandre Djouhri, a French businessman suspected by investigators of funnelling money from Gaddafi to finance Sarkozy’s campaign, was arrested in Britain and granted bail after he appeared in a London court.
Djouhri was returned to pre-trial detention in February after France issued a second warrant for his arrest, ahead of a hearing scheduled for later this month.
Sarkozy has already been ordered to stand trial in a separate matter concerning financing of his failed re-election campaign in 2012, when he was defeated by François Hollande. That case, known as the “Bygmalion affair”, centres on an alleged system of false accounting used by Sarkozy’s office to conceal an enormous campaign overspend, mainly on the lavish rallies and US-style stadium gigs that cemented Sarkozy’s reputation as a political showman. Sarkozy has denied all allegations in the case.
DRC warlord nicknamed terminator slammed 30 years sentence by ICC
A former Congolese rebel leader has been sentenced to 30 years for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Fighters loyal to Bosco Ntaganda carried out gruesome massacres of civilians, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) said in July.
Ntaganda, nicknamed “Terminator”, was convicted on 18 counts including murder, rape, sexual slavery and using child soldiers.
The sentence is the longest that the ICC has handed down.
Ntaganda was the first person to be convicted of sexual slavery by the ICC and overall the fourth person the court has convicted since its creation in 2002.
The Rwanda-born 46-year-old former rebel has been involved in numerous armed conflicts in both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Enough is enough”: Nigeria response as xenophobic attack shames South Africa
South Africa has been hit by an outbreak of attacks on migrants from other African countries as the nation prepared to host a meeting of political and business leaders from across the continent.
A spate of violence that broke out in suburbs south of Johannesburg’s city center on Sunday and spread to the central business district on Monday saw the destruction of more than 50 shops and business premises mainly owned by Africans from countries in the rest of the continent such as Nigeria and Somalia. Cars and properties were torched and widespread looting took place.
The attacks come ahead of the beginning of the African edition of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town on Sept. 4 and before a state visit to South Africa by President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, a country whose nationals have been affected, next month.
“The continuing attacks on Nigerian nationals and businesses in South Africa are unacceptable,” the government of Nigeria said on Twitter. “Enough is enough. Nigeria will take definitive measures to ensure safety and protection of her citizens.”
The violence echoes sporadic outbreaks of attacks mainly targeting migrants from other African countries in some of South Africa’s poorest areas. In 2008 about 60 people were killed and over 50,000 forced from their homes and in 2015 seven people died in violence. Migrants are seen as competition for scarce jobs and government services.
Other Nigerian politicians, including former presidential election candidate Oby Ezekwesili called for stronger intervention by the government. The government has summoned South Africa’s ambassador, the Punch newspaper reported.
In a separate development, South African truckers on Monday started a wildcat strike, protesting against foreign truck drivers. More than 20 people were arrested in connection with attacks on trucks, possession of firearms and other weapons and blocking of roads in Richards Bay, a key port, and other parts of the southeastern KwaZulu-Natal province, police said.
Zambia warned its truck drivers, many of whom drive goods south to the South African port of Durban, to stay out of the country. Newsday, a Zimbabwean newspaper, reported that trucks were queuing on the Zimbabwean side of the border with South Africa at Beitbridge, with drivers reluctant to cross. Newspapers also reported that truck drivers were waiting for calm in eSwatini and Botswana.
“It is barbaric to attack people simply because they are foreigners, it is not acceptable,” Chanda Kasolo, permanent secretary in Zambia’s information ministry, said on national television. “Our leaders are doing everything possible to communicate with the South African government to ask them to take better control of things.”
South African politicians condemned the violence, in which one person was shot dead, according to eNCA, a local television station. At least 110 people were arrested.
Looting spread to Alexandra, an impoverished area in northern Johannesburg, overnight and there was unrest in Marabastad in Pretoria, 702 Talk Radio reported.
There was a police presence in central Johannesburg on Tuesday with some shops and schools closed. Major companies including Anglo American Plc, Absa Group Ltd. and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. either closed their offices in the city center or reduced staffing.
Still, politicians from the ruling African National Congress have in the past made anti-immigrant comments and Johannesburg’s mayor, Herman Mashaba, has attracted criticism from human rights groups for his frequent attacks on undocumented migrants. Mashaba is a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance.
While ANC politicians including Ace Malagasy, the secretary-general of the ANC, and David Makhura, an ANC politician and premier of Gauteng province, in which Johannesburg and Pretoria lie, have said there is no justification for the violence South African president Cyril Ramaphosa is yet to make a public statement.
“There is an utter absence of leadership in this country,” said Claude Baissac, the head of Eunomix Business & Economics Ltd. “Lawlessness, lack of hope, lack of opportunity. It’s a country that’s slowly, slowly but continuously slipping into state failure.”
Massive and horrifying cyclone destroys an entire African city
“The scale of damage caused by Cyclone Idai that hit the Mozambican city of Beira is massive and horrifying,” this is according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IFRC.
Beira was the first major casualty of the cyclone which struck the country late last week. The city was cut off from due to the effect of strong winds and rains that continued across the week according to reports.
Most communities were submerged with all communication lines cut off. Deaths have been reported along with massive human displacement and destruction of buildings in Beira.
Beira has been severely battered. But we are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse. Yesterday, a large dam burst and cut off the last road to the city.
Jamie LeSueur who led the IFRC team on an aerial assessment said: “The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous. It seems that 90 per cent of the area is completely destroyed.
“Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible.
“Beira has been severely battered. But we are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse. Yesterday, a large dam burst and cut off the last road to the city,” he stressed.
The Red Cross team were only able to tour the affected areas on Sunday. Their statement of March 18 said in part: “While the physical impact of Idai is beginning to emerge, the human impact is unclear.”
Brief by IFRC on impact of Cyclone Idai
Following its landfall in Mozambique Cyclone Idai continued west to Zimbabwe as a Tropical Storm, wreaking havoc in several districts in the eastern part of the country, with Chimanimani and Chipinge districts in Manicaland Province being the hardest-hit.
At least 31 deaths have been reported and over 100 people are missing in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is the latest country in Southern Africa to be hit by heavy rains and violent winds, after Malawi and Mozambique.
The death toll in the three countries is currently estimated at 150. But this number is likely to change as the full extent of the damage becomes clear. More heavy rain is also anticipated and this may lead to further devastation.
IFRC has already released about 340,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund which will go towards an initial response effort for about 7,500 people.
However, given the scale of the disaster, more resources may be needed to support Mozambique Red Cross efforts on the ground. Already, the team in Beira has identified shelter, health, and water, sanitation and hygiene as priorities
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