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France

Attempt to block Sarkozy prosecution fails

Nicolas Sarkozy after being questioned over the accusations last year
Nicolas Sarkozy after being questioned over the accusations last year AFP
3 min

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy may still face trial for allegedly taking advantage of an ageing millionairess to finance his 2007 presidential campaign following a court's ruling that the medical examination that found l'Oréal heiress Lilane Bettencourt senile was valid.

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Sarkozy and 12 other people have been indicted for "abuse of a person in a state of weakness", following allegations that he and his lieutenants had visited

Dossier - The Bettencourt scandal

Bettencourt's mansion near Paris and obtained substantial funds for his successful bid for the presidency in 2007.

The charges arose from a long-running court case during which Bettencourt's daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, insisted that her mother was not in a fit state to manage her vast fortune, leading to a medical examination that found that France's richest woman was no longer of sound mind.

The subsequent inquiry unearthed revelations of visits to Bettencourt's home by prominent right-wing politicians, leading to suspicions that their motivation was financial rather than

Background reading: Previous French scandals

social.

Sarkozy declared himself "scandalised" by the charges and defence lawyers accused Judge Jean-Michel Gentil of waging a politically motivated vendetta.

On Tuesday a court in Bordeaux rejected on a bid by the defence to get the inquiry declared null and void and the charges dismissed.

But they did rule that two elements in the case could not be admitted as evidence - recordings of telephone conversations of Bettencourt's lawyer and financial manager, Patrice de Maistre, and a statement arising from the questioning of Carlos Cassina Vejarana, who was the manager of one of Bettencourt's properties, the island of Arros in the Seychelles.

Judges can now proceed to deciding who should face trial, so charges against Sarkozy or any of the other defendants could still be dropped.

Their decision is unlikely to be annouced any day soon, however.

They have to examine and debate a 115-page ruling by the Court of Appeal.

Also on Tuesday Bordeaux Judge Chantal Bussière threw out a bid to sack the magistrates handling the case. 

Liliane' Bettencourt's finance manager, Patrice de Maistre, and photographer Patrice Banier argued that the magistrates had behaved improperly, mainly basing their argument on alleged close personal relations between Judge Jean-Mihcel Gentil and the author of a key expert's opinion, Sophie Gromb.

Bussière ruled that the bid was not valid because de Maistre and Banier had themselves asked the judges to take certain actions, implicitly accepting that they were entitled to continue with the case.

 

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