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Sarkozy's Home Searched After Loss Of Immunity


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block. French investigators searched former president Nicolas Sarkozy's office and home today. They were looking for evidence of illegal campaign financing. The allegations aren't new, but Sarkozy's loss of presidential immunity is.

From Paris, NPR's Eleanor Beardsley sends this report.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: French news bulletins detail how a dozen police from a financial crimes unit searched the luxury home Sarkozy shares with his wife, former model and pop singer Carla Bruni. The probe centered around whether Sarkozy took about $70,000 in illegal campaign contributions in 2007 from France's richest woman, L'Oreal cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

Christopher Mesnooh, an American lawyer practicing in Paris, says there are witnesses who say they saw Sarkozy with cash-filled envelopes.

CHRISTOPHER MESNOOH: There have been different employees working for Madame Bettencourt who claimed that he showed up in her home back in 2007 for the express purpose of receiving money.

BEARDSLEY: It's not the first time Bettencourt has been in the news. The grand dame has been in a long-running feud with her daughter over her fortune. It was their court battle in 2010 that ballooned into a multilayered political affair that led to the current investigation.

Savalise Lom(ph) is an investigating journalist with newspaper Le Monde.

SAVALISE LOM: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: Officially, Sarkozy hasn't been charged with anything, but the suspicions are swirling around him, says Lom. Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was convicted last year of fraud for providing fictitious jobs for his pals when he was mayor of Paris.

Things could be even worse for Sarkozy, who is the first former French president to be investigated on several incidents at once. There is another ongoing probe into whether Sarkozy was involved in a French defense deal with Pakistan in the 1990s involving kickbacks that may have led to a deadly bomb attack.

The magnitude of what could befall their former leader has the French riveted, says Jean-Marquis Lous(ph), a correspondent with France 2 Televisions.

JEAN-MARQUIS LOUS: The French are fascinated by the Watergate-style American scandal that a French president barely out of office is being investigated.

BEARDSLEY: Sarkozy, who is on vacation in Canada, denies any wrongdoing. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
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