Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been called to appear before a judge on Thursday to respond to claims that he accepted illegal funds from L'Oréal cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his presidential campaign back in 2007.
Various media outlets like the daily ‘Le Figaro’ have reported that Sarkozy has been summoned to appear before judge Jean-Michel Gentil and two judicial colleagues in Bordeaux in an effort to determine whether the former president’s campaign, or other figures from his Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, received funds from Bettencourt’s Swiss bank account.
Bettencourt still holds a 31 per cent stake in L'Oréal, which she inherited from her father, who established the name in 1909.
The allegations involve seven international transfers worth a total of €4 million, to which Sarkozy has allegedly dismissed as ‘slander’.
His camp is said to have responded to the recent reports, by way of revealing that the former president will attend a conference in London on Wednesday evening and has "no plans to return to Paris before Thursday evening", neither confirming nor denying the possibility of a stop in Bordeaux.
Police are said to have searched Sarkozy's home and office back in July as part of an inquiry into the funding allegations.
Since losing the presidency to François Hollande in May and his immunity from prosecution a month later, Sarkozy has been faced with various legal complaints.
Last year, a judge who investigated donations by the L’Oreal heiress to fund Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign claimed that personal donations did in fact exchange hands.
The revelation re-opened the case that had already rocked French politics and the reputation of the L’Oreal name for a year previous, triggered by a legal challenge from Bettencourt’s daughter over whether or not she was capable of managing her day-to-day business affairs.
The claims were published in a book, entitled ‘Sarko m’a tuer’ (Sarkozy killed me), authored by two investigative journalists from the French national broadsheet Le Monde, which contained an interview with the reputable magistrate Isabelle Prevost-Deprez.
The interview featured Prevost-Deprez making clear references to personal donations made by the heiress to Sarkozy and to a reliable witness who claims to have seen Europe’s richest woman hand bank notes to the then French presidential candidate.