(CNN) — Police on Tuesday raided the Paris home and offices of Nicolas Sarkozy, his attorney said, amid an ongoing investigation into whether the former French president received illegal campaign contributions.
Sarkozy was not present during the raid, having left Monday for a family vacation in Canada, according to his attorney, Thierry Herzog.
The investigation of the former leader has largely centered around whether L’Oréal cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt and her staff illegally helped Sarkozy during his 2007 presidential campaign.
The Bettencourt scandal has fascinated France since questions about the finances of France’s richest woman emerged last year amid a family feud.
“It’s not a surprise,” said Christian Mallard, a senior foreign analyst for France Television, said of the developments. After losing his re-election bid to Socialist François Hollande, Sarkozy “was going to lose his diplomatic immunity,” opening him up to potential prosecution, Mallard said.
Among the matters probed by investigators were allegations that secret, possibly illegal payments were made to French politicians, including Sarkozy; Eric Woerth, his former labor minister; and members of his party, the Union for a Popular Movement, known as UMP.
“This search, as expected, proved to be futile given that all required elements had been sent to the magistrate (Jean-Michel Gentil) a fortnight ago,” Herzog said. “Indeed, on June 15, I addressed a letter to the instructing magistrate in which I had attached the certified extracts pertaining to Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy’s agenda for the entire year in 2007, demonstrating therefore the absolute impossibility of alleged ‘secret meetings’ with Mrs. Liliane Bettencourt.”
In September — when Sarkozy was still president — three investigators engaged in an hourlong search of his political party headquarters, seeking documents linking Sarkozy’s campaign to the alleged political contributions from Bettencourt.
“We have nothing to hide,” the UMP’s Eric Cesari said at the time, adding that investigators left without taking anything.
In May, Sarkozy lost his re-election bid to Hollande, who campaigned for growth and spending and a reversal of Sarkozy’s policies.
The election results were thought to signal a French shift to the left, bolstering Hollande’s position to push through an anti-austerity agenda after years of government budget cuts.
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