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Sarkozy given preliminary charges as Gadhafi's son offers evidence

The former French leader is accused of financing his successful 2007 presidential bid with about $62 million from Moammar Gadhafi.
Image: Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar Gadhafi
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi greets French President Nicolas Sarkozy on an official visit in 2007.Patrick Kovarik / AFP - Getty Images

LONDON — The son of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has offered to give evidence against Nicolas Sarkozy, the ex-French president who on Wednesday was slapped with charges of receiving millions of dollars from the strongman's regime.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi alleged that he witnessed part of the funds being delivered to Sarkozy's chief of staff in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

"I can confirm that I still possess solid proof about Sarkozy," he said in a series of WhatsApp messages to Africanews, the sister channel of NBC News partner Euronews. "I saw with my own eyes the delivery of the first sum of money to Sarkozy's man Claude Guéant in Tripoli."

Image: Saif al-Islam Gadhafi
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi is the second son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.Simon Denyer / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

He also welcomed Sarkozy's detention and said he would be willing to give evidence against Sarkozy, who was president of France from 2007 to 2012.

Sarkozy, 63, was handed preliminary charges after two days of questioning, according to The Associated Press, meaning he is under formal investigation by judges.

Sarkozy is accused of financing his successful 2007 presidential bid with 50 million euros (about $62 million) from Moammar Gadhafi. The sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit at the time.

According to the AP, the charges include illegally funding his campaign, passive corruption, and receiving money from Libyan embezzlement. Sarkozy has repeatedly and vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Soon after winning the election, Sarkozy invited Gadhafi for a state visit to France. But in 2011, the French leader was at the forefront of NATO-led airstrikes on Libya that helped rebels topple the leader.

Gadhafi was killed in violence that engulfed the country in 2011, and now Libya is still split between rival governments in the east and west while ports and beaches are largely in the hands of armed groups.

After this military intervention, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi gave an interview to Euronews in March 2011 alleging that Sarkozy had received money from the Libyan government.

"The first thing we want this clown to do is to give the money back to the Libyan people," he said at the time.

Image: Nicolas Sarkozy
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.Joel Saget / AFP - Getty Images

Al-Islam again referenced France's involvement in the NATO-led bombing in his WhatsApp messages to Africanews this week.

"Ex-president Sarkozy is responsible for the chaos, the spread of terrorism and illegal immigration in Libya," he said.

Saif al-Islam was Gadhafi’s most prominent son and the family’s most Westernized face. Although he held no formal position in the government, he was seen by many as a reformer and the heir to his father’s power.

After his father was toppled, he was jailed by rebels for seven years during which images appeared showing he was missing several fingers. He was freed last year, his whereabouts are unknown, and he remains wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity relating to the Libyan uprising in 2011.

Sarkozy has faced other campaign-related legal troubles in the past.

In February 2017, he was ordered to stand trial on preliminary charges of illegal overspending on his failed 2012 re-election campaign. Sarkozy has appealed the decision.

In 2013, he was cleared of allegations that he illegally took donations from France's richest woman, the L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, on the way to his 2007 election victory.