French businessman seized in London in probe into whether Gaddafi funded Sarkozy campaign

A French businessman has been arrested in London as part of a probe into whether the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi illegally funded Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2007, according to French judicial sources.

Alexandre Djouhri was arrested on Sunday at London’s Heathrow airport under the jurisdiction of a European arrest warrant, said the source.  He was remanded in custody after a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

Judges are seeking to verify allegations made by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the late former Libyan leader, in 2011 that Mr Sarkozy had accepted millions of euros from him and his father to finance his successful 2007 election run.

The warrant was issued after Mr Djouhri, who is a close friend of former prime minister Dominique de Villepin, repeatedly failed to respond to the judges’ to question him, said the sources.

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France's former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin (C) and businessman Alexandre Djouhri (L) attending a football match in Paris in April 2014 Credit:

Last September, France’s national financial prosecutor said it was looking into whether Mr Djouhri had made illicit gains of around €10 million (£8.8m) in 2009 by selling a villa in Mougins, in the southeastern Alpes-Maritimes department for a vastly inflated price to the then Libyan regime’s multi-billion-dollar Libyan African Portfolio sovereign investment fund. 

The fund was run by Bashir Saleh, who found asylum in France following the collapse of the Gaddafi regime. However, Mr Saleh discreetly fled to South Africa on May 3, 2012 – just days before Mr Sarkozy lost his re-election bid – despite being subject to an Interpol request for his arrest and extradition back to Libya where he faced fraud charges.

Last year, a French-Lebanese businessman publicly repeated claims that Mr Gaddafi gave €50m to fund Mr Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign.

In a film published on the investigative news website Mediapart, Ziad Takieddine, who introduced Mr Sarkozy to Gaddafi, insists he handed over cases stuffed with cash to the former French leader and his chief of staff, Claude Guéant.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy denies receiving funds from the late Libyan leader Muammar GaddafiCredit:

Mr Sarkozy and Mr Guéant have repeatedly denied taking money from Mr Gaddafi.

In 2013, the French courts opened an inquiry into the suspected illegal financing of Mr Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign with a view to possible charges for “active and passive corruption, misuse of power, forgery, abuse of public money, money laundering, and complicity in and concealment of these offences”.

However, despite several witness statements and years of legal inquiries, no charges have been brought and no convictions made.

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