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France

Sarkozy hit by new claims of Gaddhafi campaign funding

media Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine spoke to French investigative news site Mediapart Mediapart/ screen grab

Nicolas Sarkozy's links with the late Moamer Gaddafi came under new scrutiny on Tuesday after a businessman said he delivered three cash-stuffed suitcases from the Libyan leader toward the Frenchman's first presidential bid.

In an interview with the Mediapart investigative news site, Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine said he had made three trips from Tripoli to Paris in late 2006 and early 2007 with cash for Sarkozy's campaign.

Each time he carried a suitcase containing between 1.5 and 2.0 million euros in 200-euro and 500-euro notes, Takieddine told the site in a video interview, saying he was given the money by Kadhafi's military intelligence chief Abdallah Senussi.

Sarkozy, who is bidding to recapture the presidency in next year's election, has for years been dogged by allegations that he accepted millions from Gaddhafi during his successful 2007 run for the top office.

During questioning in a separate case, Takieddine accused Sarkozy of having been in Kadhafi's pocket in 2006-07 but he had never previously claimed to be the bagman.

The allegations against Sarkozy first emerged in March 2011, when the French leader was campaigning for the NATO-led military intervention that helped overthrow Gaddhafi.

"Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign," Kadhafi's son Seif al-Islam, who is now in jail in Libya, demanded. A year later, as Sarkozy was campaigning for a second term, Mediapart published a document signed by former Libyan intelligence boss Musa Kusa referring to an agreement for 50 million euros in backing from Tripoli.

Sarkozy, who lost his 2012 re-election bid, vigorously denied the allegations, claiming the document was a fake. He furthermore attributed the claims to vindictive Libyan regime members, who he said were furious with him for leading the intervention that ended Gaddhafi's 41-year rule.

The 61-year-old right-winger, who is trailing presidential frontrunner Juppe in opinion polls, is embroiled in several scandals. He has been charged with influence peddling in a separate affair and with illegal financing of his 2012 campaign. Sarkozy has accused the judiciary of trying to stymie his comeback ambitions.

- with AFP

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