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French ex-president Sarkozy held in 2007 campaign financing probe

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was taken into police custody March 20 for questioning in a probe into whether his 2007 presidential election bid received illegal Libyan financing, Reuters reported, citing an official in the French judiciary.

A former minister and close Sarkozy ally, Brice Hortefeux, was also being questioned by police in relation to the Libya investigation, Reuters said, citing another source close to the probe.

A lawyer for Sarkozy could not be reached immediately for comment, but Sarkozy has always denied receiving any illicit campaign funding, according to the newswire.

Sarkozy, who served as president from 2007 to 2012, has also faced allegations that his 2012 re-election campaign received illegal funding, but this is the first time he has been summoned by judges in connection with the probe into his 2007 presidential run, the Financial Times reported.

A French inquiry into alleged illegal campaign funding from Libya was opened in 2013, but it did not name anyone as a suspect, The Guardian said.

Custody can last for up to 48 hours, after which the suspect can be placed under formal investigation, indicating tangible evidence in a case, while being a step short of charges, the FT said.