Allies of former President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed shock and incomprehension on Friday after he was informed on Thursday that he would face a formal investigation into whether he abused the frailty of Liliane Bettencourt,90,the heiress to the LOréal fortune and Frances richest woman,to get funds for his 2007 presidential campaign.
Sarkozy has denied accepting illegal campaign money from Bettencourt,either personally or through his party treasurer at the time,Éric Woerth,as alleged by Bettencourts former butler.
Sarkozys lawyer,Thierry Herzog,called the judges decision,which indicates that the judge believes that Sarkozy probably committed a crime,incoherent and unjust. Herzog said he would appeal. The ruling does not necessarily mean that Sarkozy,who lost his re-election bid in May and with it his presidential immunity from prosecution,will stand trial.
Sarkozy is in a state of mind of incomprehension,said Jean-François Copé,president of Sarkozys political party,known as UMP for its initials in French,who told television channel France 2 that he had spoken with Sarkozy on Thursday night. Copé said he felt the same incomprehension.
Other political allies on the right professed shock,with some suggesting a conspiracy against Sarkozy,who has reportedly been weighing a return to politics.
Its a political act, one lawmaker,Thierry Mariani,told Le Monde. Certain magistrates have grudges to settle with the former president of the republic,and have hidden political urges.
On Twitter,Marianis parliamentary colleague Lionnel Luca wondered if President François Hollande had not somehow influenced the magistrate investigating the Bettencourt case.
The only chance for François Hollande in 2017 is to eliminate by all means the possibility of a candidacy of the only adversary who can defeat him!
On the left,reactions were more guarded,perhaps,French news media suggested,given the resignation earlier in the week of Hollandes budget minister,Jérôme Cahuzac,after an announcement that he would be formally investigated on suspicion of tax fraud and money laundering.
I say its normal, the housing minister,Cécile Duflot,told French media. The investigation of Sarkozy proves that the justice system does its work freely, Ms. Duflot said.
A spokesman for Hollandes Socialist Party said the accusations were grave for a former president, but noted that his predecessor must be presumed innocent until the contrary is proven.