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    Nicolas Sarkozy, former head of the Les Republicains political party, attends a political rally in Franconville, France, as he campaigns for the French conservative presidential primary, September 19, 2016.

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    Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been placed under investigation amid charges of bribery and accepting illegal campaign funds from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

    However, Sarkozy has denied the allegations against him and denounced the lack of physical evidence in his case.

    According to reports, Gaddafi allegedly transferred 50 million euros to Sarkozy ahead of the 2007 presidential election in France.

    Radio Sputnik discussed this with Dr. Paul Sanders, an academic and specialist in international affairs and associate professor at the French business school NEOMA.

    Sputnik: The former French president has denied any wrongdoing and said that he was accused without any evidence. What’s your take on the matter and where does the traction for this story come from? 

    Dr. Paul Sanders: Well, that’s not a reason because it’s not very credible because we’ve known for many decades now that French party finance isn’t so French. Such practices that have been evoked, I only have to say Jacques Chirac, who was under investigation for a very long time. Chirac has been a more prominent case than Sarkozy and it’s really nothing new.

    Sputnik: Mr. Sarkozy has gone on record to say that the accusations of alleged funding from Libya caused him to lose, with regards of re-election bid in 2012. Do you agree with that assumption?

    Dr. Paul Sanders: That’s equally outlandish as the idea, even when I was going to open the previous question, there were many elements that caused Sarkozy to lose the 2012 election, that’s the most important would be to say that Sarkozy really is a typical reflection of power: he became more and more wealthy and more and more out of touch with the lives of real people. And the communication was frankly quite lousy as well, that he was using an order to counter this very negative image that he was acquiring month by month basically. I was living in France during the Sarkozy years and there was a degradation that just didn’t get better at all. That’s why Hollande, who was rather second-rate I would say, could get in because all he needed to do was position himself as the president who would be a normal president again, who would be in touch with people. So the idea that he lost the election because of Libya or because of these allegations is frankly nonsense.

    Sputnik: What’s the agenda behind this? Why has it taking so long for this to come into the public domain? Is there an agenda? Are they trying to force Nicolas Sarkozy out of the political stage?

    Dr. Paul Sanders: Nicolas Sarkozy has been forced out of the political stage for years now. He tried a comeback for the last election but he was, he couldn’t prevail against Francois Fillon, who was then the right-wing candidate in France. Sarkozy, if I remember rightly, came maybe in last position when the vote was up. And he has of course also lost the patronage that French presidents usually benefit from even once they’re out of office. I mean, when I think about this it really reminds me what happened with Yeltsin in the 1990’s. When Yeltsin stepped down, then there would have been plenty of reasons that one could have pursued Yeltsin for, but he had made sure he would be protected once he stepped down. This is obviously not functioning anymore for Sarkozy now, as he is coming under the attack like this. Apparently obviously Macron is doing something very he’s modifying the French political system in a way that hasn’t been seen before if a French president can be called in like this for questioning. 

    Sputnik: Marine Le Pen has expressed some sharp criticism of the former president, saying that he was guilty of destabilizing the state and causing a mass migration wave. In your opinion, what role did Sarkozy and France play in the refugee crisis?

    Dr. Paul Sanders: Now what Marine Le Pen is saying is a question to the occasion of the real situation. The refugee crisis everybody’s talking about is mainly a refugee crisis that was caused by the Syrian conflict. That’s the millions of refugees that came to Europe they came mainly over the Balkans route and that’s was in the French press for months. Of course the Mediterranean route is also important but much less important, because it’s much more difficult to travel across the Mediterranean from Libya into Europe than it is coming up the Balkans. But the Balkans is basically the underbelly, the open underbelly of Europe, into which it was extremely easy to get into in 2015 and 2016. Then there’s a problem of dating, of course. The start in Libya, this is 2011-2012. The refugee crisis we have a couple of years later was not relevant then. So what Marine Le Pen says here is, as usual, disinformation. Particular of the extreme far-right, of Marine Le Pen, is to argue that France is being overrun by foreigners, that there’s too many Muslims, that France can’t integrate these people, that it’s the fault of successive French governments, that it’s the fault of the European Union. So sure, I mean this thing has been around for years, if not decades and it, of course, has been kind of accentuated by the current situation right now, because the far-right have now a chance of actually getting into government for the first time. They had that chance a year ago and they might have that chance again in 4 or 5 years’ time, when the next French presidential elections will be coming underway. It all depends on how good a job Macron does.

    Sputnik: Some experts have said that corruption charges against ex-President Sarkozy reveal France’s loose campaign regarding financial practices. Does it need to look at its financial regulation?

    Dr. Paul Sanders: No, French party finance has always been an area where there’s been a huge battle between on the one hand the judiciary and the executive, of course, and once you’re out of power you are likely to come under investigation because of the very opaque, you might say, laws that exist on this matter. Though this is one area where the judiciary can really have a go at, not so much incumbent presidents, not so much when you’re in power and you have a little more control of the situation; but once you’re out of power you automatically come under investigation by these judges, because they are a bit like bloodhounds in France and that really a good thing that it is like that, because we need the checks and balances. 

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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