[JURIST] French magistrates are expected to file preliminary charges against former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [official profile, in French] for allegedly ordering a smear campaign against former political rival and current French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile; BBC profile], Villepin's office said Tuesday. Villepin is accused of being responsible for anonymous letters sent to a magistrate accusing Sarkozy of owning secret bank accounts used to receive kickbacks from a 1991 frigates sale to Taiwan [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Villepin, who has denied the allegations [JURIST report], is expected to be questioned on July 27.
Last Friday, investigators searched Villepin's offices [JURIST report], only a day after searching his home. In December 2006, Villepin was questioned by judges for more than 17 hours in connection with an investigation into the smear. Villepin has denied any wrongdoing. AP has more.