Former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy to sue over claims he took millions from Qaddafi

Key witness changes story of ‘illegal financing’ during 2007 presidential election

PARIS, FRANCE- DECEMBER 10: French President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomes Colonel Gaddafi at Le palais de l'Elysee on December 10, 2007 in Paris, France. The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi will spend five days in France, his first visit in over 30 years, to discuss trade and military deals. (Photo by Michel Dufour/WireImage)
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Former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy has asked his legal team to halt a court case and sue a key witness for defamation.

Mr Sarkozy issued a statement after an extraordinary U-turn by Lebanese-French businessman Ziad Takieddine, who had alleged that he had taken €5 million ($5.91m) from Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to France to finance the French politician’s 2007 election campaign.

Mr Takieddine, 70, a witness in accusations against Mr Sarkozy, said he had delivered the money in a suitcase from Tripoli to the former French president’s chief of staff in 2006 and 2007.

However, Mr Takieddine published a video in which he claimed his words had been twisted.

"I am saying loud and clear the magistrate ... really wanted to turn it the way he wanted and make me say things which are totally contradictory to what I said," he said.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 7, 2019 Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine arrives at Paris courthouse on the first day of the trial for the financial aspect of "the Karachi case", an alleged arms deal kickbacks said to have funded the 1995 presidential campaign of Edouard Balladur. A leading witness retracted on November 11, 2020 allegations that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy took millions in cash from Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi for his 2007 election campaign. French-Lebanese businessman, Ziad Takieddine, had claimed he delivered suitcases carrying a total of five million euros from Tripoli to Sarkozy's chief of staff in 2006 and 2007.
 / AFP / Bertrand GUAY
Ziad Takieddine had claimed he delivered suitcases carrying a total of €5 million euros from Tripoli to Nicolas Sarkozy's chief of staff in 2006 and 2007. AFP

"There was no financing of Sarkozy's presidential campaign.”

Mr Sarkozy said his lawyers would seek to halt the case and sue Mr Takieddine for defamation.

Responding to the news, he said: "The truth is out at last.

"For seven and a half years, the investigation has not discovered the slightest proof of any illegal financing whatsoever," he said on Facebook.

"The chief accuser recognises his lies. He never gave me money, there was never illegal financing of my campaign in 2007."

Last month, French prosecutors charged Mr Sarkozy for "membership in a criminal conspiracy" after he was questioned for 40 hours over four days.

This was added to charges filed in 2018 of accepting bribes, benefiting from embezzled public funds and illegal campaign financing.

Mr Sarkozy was president of France from 2007 to 2012 and played a key role supporting Libyan rebels in their overthrow of Qaddafi in 2011.

In 2012, news website Mediapart published a document claiming that Qaddafi had given as much as €50m.
Mr Takieddine, an alleged arms dealer, is in Beirut on the run from France over a separate suspicious financing incident.