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France ex-president taken into custody on illegal campaign finance allegations

[JURIST] Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy [BBC profile] was taken into custody [Local report] Tuesday morning for questioning regarding allegations that he received millions of euros in illegal campaign financing from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile].

The questioning lasted [AP report] from early Tuesday morning to well into the night. According to local reports, the prosecutors questioning Sarkozy specialize in tax evasion, money laundering and corruption. It is yet unclear when he will be released.

The investigation into the matter began in 2013 following previous claims made by both Gaddafi and his son Sef al-Islam that they had both contributed significant funds to Sarkozy's election efforts. The investigation gained significant momentum in 2016 when Ziad Takieddine, a French-Lebanese businessman, admitted that he delivered three suitcases containing roughly 5 million euros in cash to Sarkozy on Gaddafi's behalf sometime between 2006 and 2007. Investigators are now claiming that Sarkozy received a total of 50 million euros from Gaddafi.

Sarkozy has faced numerous legal challenges in the past. Following his failed 2012 presidential campaign, Sarkozy was charged with spending nearly double the legal limit of 22.5 million euros on his campaign. Prosecutors claim that many of these purchases were made using falsified bills from a public relations firm called Bygmalion. Sarkozy has been ordered to stand trial on the matter. In 2013, Sarkozy was cleared of other illegal campaign funding allegations surrounding his acceptance of donations from L'Oreal Heiress Liliane Bettencourt, who was at the time the richest woman in France.

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