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FRANCE

More Sarkozy associates charged in election finance scandal

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

Three officials of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy's 2012 election campaign have been charged in relation to alleged attempts to dodge finance limits. Judges said that their investigation had finished.

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The director of Sarkozy's unsuccessful attempt to be reelected, Guillaume Lambert, its treasurer, MP Philippe Briand, and a lawyer of the right-wing UMP party, Philippe Blanchetier, have all been charged with various fraud charges and breaking electoral finance law.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

The move brings the total number of people charged to 10, including former UMP chief, Jean-François Copé. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve later announced that he would ask for Lambert to be fired as prefect of the southern Lozère department.

The three deny any knowledge of the scam, which involved PR company Bygmalion charging the UMP for 18.5-million-euros-worth of services that it actually provided to the campaign, so as to keep declared costs below the legal limit of 22.5 million euros.

Judges Renaud van Ruymbeke and René Grouman on Friday announced that they had wrapped up their investigation, having cited Sarkozy as an assisted witness, a status that leaves him open to being charged at a later stage.

Parties to the case now have three months to make observations on it or ask for other angles to be investigated.

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