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Sarkozy escapes charge but financing probe to continue

Published on Nov 23, 2012 6:12 AM
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy (left rear) speaks on the phone as he sits near his lawyer Thierry Herzog (right rear) as they leave the courthouse in Bordeaux on Nov 22, 2012. Mr Sarkozy and Mr Herzog leave after a day of questioning by magistrates trying to establish whether his 2007 election campaign was illegally financed by the country's richest woman, a judicial source said.  -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BORDEAUX (AFP) - Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday avoided immediate indictment but will continue to be investigated over allegations that his 2007 election campaign was financed with funds secured illegally from the country's richest woman.

After more than 12 hours of interrogation, a panel of three examining magistrates decided to treat Mr Sarkozy as a witness under caution rather than formally charging him.

The decision will allow the former leader to retain hope he will eventually be completely cleared of charges he denies. But it also means the magistrates believe there are grounds for further investigation, a stance that deals a significant blow to Mr Sarkozy's hopes of staging a political comeback.

The conviction last year of his predecessor Jacques Chirac on corruption charges related to his time as mayor of Paris demonstrated that French courts are willing to go after former leaders.

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