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France ex-president Sarkozy facing legal action

The first legal complaint against former French president Nicolas Sarkozy [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was filed on Monday for his alleged involvement in the French sale of submarines to Pakistan in the 1990s. Olivier Morice, the lawyer acting for the victims of a 2002 bombing in Karachi, filed suit against the former president to investigate whether the assets of the submarine sale were the source of an illegal party financing during the 1995 presidential campaign. As the French president, Sarkozy had been under immunity from any investigations or legal procedures under the French constitution. However, the constitution only grants such immunity up to one month after the presidency is over. Last month, Francois Hollande [official website, in French] succeeded Sarkozy as the new president. Sarkozy's immunity ceased last Friday, one month after his defeat in the presidential election. Another case against the former president is coming up which alleges that he illegally financed his 2007 presidency campaign from case withdrawals from the account of L'Oreal [corporate website] heiress Liliane Bettencourt [Forbes profile].

Sarkozy is not the first president who faced criminal charges upon the end of presidency. In December, former French president Jacques Chirac [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was convicted [JURIST report] by a French court on corruption charges, receiving a two-year suspended sentence. He was accused of using public funds to support his political goals when he was mayor of Paris. Three months earlier, a French prosecutor asked [JURIST report] the court to drop the corruption charges against Chirac. During the same month, lawyers for the former president filed documents with the 11th Criminal Court of Paris claiming that their client was to ill to attend court hearings that was planned to begin after it was delayed in March [JURIST reports].

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