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What the papers said 21 Mar 2018

rfi English, Mar 21

Gadhafi's ghost returns to hunt Nicolas Sarkozy as judges probe some 50 million euros in illegal campaign funds allegedly paid to him by Libya.

We begin with reactions to a hottest issue trending in France over the past few hours - the taking into custody of French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday for questioning over allegations that the late Libyan dictator Moamer Kaddafi financed his 2007 election campaign, including with suitcases stuffed with cash.

Le Parisien reports that Sarkozy's car left the parking lot of the anti-corruption police office in the western Parisian suburb of Nanterre where he was being questioned since early Tuesday morning, at midnight. But the paper says it was unclear whether he was inside.

Le Figaro has a background to the complex affair for which it says the ex-President is appearing before investigative police for the first time. The newspaper reports that it broke out in April 2012 when the investigative website Mediapart published alleged official documents pertaining to the deal amounting to 50 million euros.

Le Figaro says some members of Libyan secret services have challenged the authenticity of the document. Sarkozy eventually filed a lawsuit denouncing the alleged forgery and fraud by Mediapart which was four years later ruled as valid.

Libération claims that Sarkozy's long grilling at the anti-graft office is the latest episode in France's most explosive political financing scandal and one of several legal probes that have dogged the rightwing politician since he left office after one term in 2012.

For the left-leaning paper, it is not just reassuring but heartening, not because the former President was taken into custody, but because as the Libé puts it, to see that the police and investigative magistrates can continue their work at their pace and without pressure from anyone in their search for the truth.

Le Journal de la Haute-Marne, claims that notwithstanding the presumption of innocence which Sarkozy is entitled to, under French law, his judicial status took everyone by surprise. But it warns that if the allegations are proven, the affair could go down as the biggest scandal of the fifth Republic.

La Nouvelle République du Centre-ouest argues that on top of the explosive allegations about cash-stuffed briefcases, unscrupulous intermediaries and suspicious disappearances of witnesses, is the alleged appearance of Gadhafi's ghost to “recover his debt after being physically eliminated during so-called “over-zealous French air strikes in Libya.

La République des Pyrénées argues, that whatever happens at the end, the suspected scandal is bound to become the most shocking evidence of the murky world of money and politics at the Elysée Palace under Nicolas Sarkozy, and indeed his predecessors as well.

Paris-Normandie says it is no surprise that leaders of the main opposition conservative Republican party have all rushed to denounce the perceived “deliberate persecution” of their champion.

This is the second time since his departure from the Elysée that Sarkozy has been placed into custody, underlines l'Alsace. For the publication, even if the investigation sends out a flattering message about the equality of all before the law, the affair facing ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy paints a shameful image of the country.


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