World Bulletin / News Desk
Police raided the home and offices of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday as part of a judicial inquiry into financial relations between his political camp and the richest woman in France, L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.
It was Sarkozy's first legal tangle since he was unseated in a May 6 election after five years in office, during which he enjoyed presidential immunity from legal pursuit. That cover expired in mid-June.
Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said the raids a day after his client had left for Canada on holiday would show nothing and that he had already supplied information to investigators that debunked suspicions of secret meetings with Bettencourt.
"These raids ... will as expected prove futile," Herzog said in a statement.
The Bettencourt probe centres on financial relations between Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party and the billionaire heiress of the L'Oreal cosmetics empire. In one strand, investigators are trying to establish whether Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign in particular was funded illicitly.
Herzog said magistrates looking into whether Sarkozy had received campaign funds from the now mentally fragile Bettencourt had been supplied with diary details of all Sarkozy appointments in 2007.
Those details, he said, "prove that the purported 'secret meetings' with Madame Liliane Bettencourt were impossible".
Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who ruled France from 1995 to 2007, was handed a two-year suspended jail sentence in December after a court found him guilty of misusing public funds for political purposes when he was mayor of Paris.
Francois Hollande, who unseated Sarkozy in May, has vowed to change the rules in France under his tenure so that the law no longer treats presidents differently from other civilians regarding matters that predate their time in office.
The 57-year-old Sarkozy, who has adopted a low profile since his defeat, faces a number of legal tangles now that he is no longer head of state.
Days after his constitutionally guaranteed immunity expired in mid-June, a lawyer announced a formal legal complaint in another affair with a political funding link in which he wants Sarkozy to answer questions.
That complaint came from a lawyer acting for victims of a 2002 bombing in Karachi that investigators believe may be linked to a long-running corruption and illegal party-financing case.
In the so-called "Karachi Affair", investigators are trying to unravel dealings by middlemen and possible kickbacks linked to France's sale of Agosta class submarines to Pakistan in the 1990s.
That contract was negotiated and signed while Sarkozy was a minister and spokesman for a politician who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1995, Edouard Balladur.
Netanyahu returns to Israel after visit to United States with his speech congress draws strong criticism.
The Syria conflict is the first war that scientists have explicitly linked to climate change. Researchers say that global warming intensified the region’s worst-ever drought, pushing the country into civil war by destroying agriculture and forcing an exodus to cities already straining from poverty, an influx of refugees from war-torn Iraq next door and poor government, the report finds.
Australian PM says "revolted" by planned executions with the Australian pair among 11 convicts to be shot. The appeal against execution still outstanding
Britain seeks to send police officers to prevent foreign crossing into Syria to join militant groups..
Despite Netanyahu's threats, Iran and the US have resumed talks over Iran's nuclear programme
The new anti-terrorism law China says, will not affect legitimate interests of technology firms.
The boat had left Libya and was carrying 130 people at the time.
President Ghani orders supply contract review after allegations that the bidding was rigged.
Britain's advertising watchdog banned an Israeli advert that showed a view of the walled Old City with the text "Israel has it all"
Campaign group Cage under scrutiny over links to Mohammed Emwazi with investigations underway into charities which back Cage. Cag says targeted because it exposes state wrongdoing.
Drones were seen flying over sensitive sites in Paris and above nuclear power plants
Chinese Cosco vessel detained for transporting thousands of cannon shells
More than 30 people killed after an explosion at a coal mine in eastern Ukraine
A large crowd of ultra-Orthodox Jews demonstrated Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit in New York
President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress contained “nothing new,” and offered no “viable alternatives.”