Did Sarkozy take money from Gaddafi?

A formal Investigation has been launched against former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. He is accused of accepting at least 50 million euros when he was French minister of the interior from Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi and using them for election purposes. The accusations have been circulating for years, but now concrete evidence to back them up seems to have emerged. Even if Sarkozy was bribed the real problem lies elsewhere, journalists believe.

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Avvenire (IT) /

Sarkozy has Libya on his conscience

Sarkozy complained that the judiciary was making his life hell, but Libya has been a living hell since 2011 and Sarkozy is to blame for that, Avvennire counters:

“The French had a clear target: Gaddafi. He was the prize. And in the end he was caught at the gates of Sirte and killed on the spot - without the trial or indictment befitting a country governed by the rule of law. ... Sarkozy's 'brilliant military operation' left the country in ruins and divided. The consequence was a humanitarian disaster comparable only with that in Syria. To claim that all this happened simply to get rid of Gadaffi and all traces of a highly dangerous relationship probably goes too far. But Sarkozy acted unilaterally and without the allies' approval. Today we see the consequences of his military operation dressed up as a humanitarian mission. And Italy is bearing the brunt of the burden.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Money-bag diplomacy no stranger to politics

Corruption has apparently long been the norm among France's top politicians, Diário de Notícias comments:

“Sarkozy is said to have accepted illegal donations for his campaign in 2007. Apparently he wasn't all that grateful, because in 2011 he helped to topple his benefactor, the Libyan dictator Gaddaffi. In the same year the Journal du Dimanche published an interview with Robert Bourgi, the French government's unofficial representative in Africa. ... Bourgi admitted that he had brought back numerous suitcases filled with money to the city hall in Paris, the Elysée Palace and the Hôtel Matignon [the headquarters of the French prime Minister]. These weren't yet from Gaddafi but from other African rulers and were said to be destined for the then mayor [and later president] Chirac and [his right-hand man and later prime minister] Dominique de Villepin.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Still innocent until proven guilty

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung warns against condemning Sarkozy prematurely:

“The official investigation, ongoing since 2013, had not seriously threatened Sarkozy until now. The fact that he has been taken into custody indicates that new, plausible evidence must have come to light. Perhaps the Libyan authorities are cooperating with the French investigators. Perhaps the research by various journalists has produced concrete evidence. As long as the facts remain unclear, however, we must assume that Sarkozy is innocent until proven guilty. Other accusations, for example concerning illegal party donations that Sarkozy allegedly received from the elderly billionaire Liliane Bettencourt - also in the fateful year of 2007 - proved false.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Was the dictator an inconvenient witness?

France correspondent Bernardo Valli examines in La Repubblica whether Sarkozy was involved in Gaddafi's death:

“The civil war began [in 2011] with a rupture between Sarkozy's France and Gaddafi's Libya. Sarkozy - in a sudden fit of humanitarian and democratic fervour - offered the rebels of the eastern province of Cyrenaica the use of his air force. The British sided with him. Looking back, the decision of the French president seems like an attempt not just to support the rebels in their fight against the dictator but to have him eliminated entirely - in view of his embarrassing role as financier of the president of a democratic country like France.”

Večernji list (HR) /

French judiciary on a roll

The French still haven't figured out that even the highest officials are not immune to bribery, Večernji list comments:

“Nostalgics still reminisce about how de Gaulle even paid for his own stamps, and for petrol when he used the official car on the weekend. For those in power to be caught in the net of justice when the easy money goes to their head, the times - and mindsets - must change. ... For Nicolas Sarkozy the social climate has been unfavourable ever since Emmanuel Macron introduced the 'zero-tolerance policy' on corruption. The French judiciary has long been calling for autonomy - now it has the wind in its sails and all the trophies it needs.”

Libération (FR) /

Good work by press, police, and the courts

Libération comments with a mixture of revulsion and relief:

“Certainly, politics is a combat sport. But why should we get used to seeing it relocated to the business ring? It's also dreadful to hear the chorus on the right decrying the doggedness of the judiciary and the press, which it sees as the former's military wing. The opposite is the case, of course. This last episode of an investigation opened in 2013 is reassuring, delightful even. Not because a former president of the Republic is in custody - that's a sad spectacle indeed. But it is delightful to see that the police and the judges have continued to work - at their pace and completely independently - to ensure that justice is done.”