PARIS: The home and offices of Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni were raided yesterday by police investigating claims of widespread corruption.
Detectives launched a dawn swoop on the Paris mansion where the ex-French president and his former supermodel third wife live.
There were co-ordinated raids on Sarkozy’s new office in the centre of the French capital and on the law firm which represents him.
Papers and computer disks were seized, along with any other material “likely to be of evidential value”, said a police source.
All the raids were connected to the so-called Bettencourt affair, in which Sarkozy is accused of accepting cash from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt in return for tax breaks.
Judge Jean-Michel Gentil believes that Bettencourt, France’s richest woman, may have illegally contributed two payments of e400 000 each to Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign.
Both were traced to Swiss accounts and one was allegedly received by Sarkozy in person in Paris, in return for offering Bettencourt tax breaks once he came to power.
Numerous witnesses, including a butler, nurse and chauffeur have described seeing Sarkozy paying personal visits to the Bettencourt mansion in Neuilly-sur-Seine, the upmarket Paris suburb.
The 57-year-old Sarkozy lost his presidential immunity from prosecution in June after losing the election in May to Socialist François Hollande.
Sarkozy has insisted that he could not have used illegal cash to fund his election as French president because he did not write about it in his diary.
But a judicial source close to the case said: “A personal diary is unlikely to have recorded the illegal receipt of cash.”
There is only one official mention of a meeting between Sarkozy, Bettencourt and her late husband, Andre, in Sarkozy’s diary.
It took place on February 24, 2007 – two months before the first round of that year’s presidential elections, but Sarkozy insists it was just a 25-minute “courtesy call”.
Sarkozy’s close friend and former treasurer and minister, Eric Woerth, is already under examination and facing charges over the affair. Both he and Sarkozy deny any wrong-doing.
Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said the former president’s personal diary would prove his innocence and that his client was going on the offensive “to defend himself against accusations made publicly against him for several months”. Sarkozy is also facing allegations that he profited from illegal arms sales to Pakistan, and that he accepted millions from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Since being kicked out of the Elysée Palace, Sarkozy is living in Paris permanently with Bruni and their baby daughter, Giulia. He and his wife are in Canada on holiday, so were not at home during the police raids. – Daily Mail