[JURIST] French magistrates have filed preliminary charges of "complicity in slanderous denunciations" against former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [official profile, in French; JURIST news archive], Villepin's lawyer said Friday. Villepin is accused of ordering a smear campaign against former political rival and current French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile; JURIST news archive] as well as being responsible for several anonymous letters sent to a magistrate accusing Sarkozy of owning secret bank accounts used to receive kickbacks from a 1991 frigate sale to Taiwan [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Magistrates believe that Villepin knew that Sarkozy did not own the accounts. Villepin, who has denied the allegations [JURIST report], was also questioned by magistrates on Friday.
Investigators searched Villepin's offices [JURIST report] and home in July. In December 2006, Villepin was questioned [JURIST report] by magistrates for more than 17 hours in connection with the smear investigation. AP has more.