France's Sarkozy should stand trial for alleged Libyan campaign financing -prosecutor

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy enters his car as he leaves his house in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy should stand trial on charges of corruption and illegal financing of an election campaign related to alleged Libyan funding of his successful 2007 presidential bid, France's financial prosecutor (PNF) said.

Prosecutors have investigated allegations that former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi sent Sarkozy’s election campaign millions of euros in cash, allegations that were first made by one of the sons of the late autocrat.

The PNF said Sarkozy was one of 13 individuals who should be tried, citing charges against him of "concealment of laundering public funds, passive corruption, illegal campaign financing and criminal conspiracy with a view to committing a crime punishable by 10 years in jail".

Sarkozy has always denied the accusations. Neither his aides nor his lawyers responded to a request for comment.

"There’s not even the smallest inkling of proof," the former president said in an interview in 2018, adding that the allegations had made his life a living hell.

Among the others whom the prosecutor said should face trial are Sarkozy allies, including former ministers Claude Gueant, Brice Hortefeux and Eric Woerth on charges of complicity in illegal campaign financing.

Sarkozy faces legal woes on multiple fronts. In March 2021, he was sentenced to three years in prison, two of them suspended, for bribery and influence-peddling in a separate matter. Appeal court judges will deliver their verdict in that case next week.

He was also handed a one-year sentence after being found guilty of illegal campaign financing during his failed 2012 re-election bid. He has appealed that sentence, a move that in effect suspends it.

In its statement, the PNF on Thursday said the parties involved now have the opportunity to make representations to the case's investigating judge, who will decide if the prosecutor's recommendations should be followed.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Richard Lough and Nick Macfie)