Nicolas Sarkozy in police custody over 'influence peddling' allegations

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For the first time under France's Fifth Republic a former president has been held in custody for questioning. On Tuesday morning Nicolas Sarkozy was summoned to the offices of the fraud squad at Nanterre, west of Paris, where he was formally placed in police custody for questioning over claims that he benefited from what is known as 'influence peddling'. In particular the judges and police carrying out the investigation want to know if Sarkozy sought confidential information from a senior judge about the Bettencourt affair, in return for helping him get a top job in Monaco. The questioning of the former president, which comes a day after his lawyer, the judge at the centre of the 'influence peddling' claims and another judge were also held for questioning, is bound to place doubts over his expected return to French politics. If the investigating judges consider there is enough evidence, Sarkozy could be placed under formal investigation, one step short of formal charges.

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Former president Nicolas Sarkozy was on Tuesday being held in police custody near Paris as part of a judge-led investigation into allegations of ‘influence peddling’ and ‘violation of the secrecy of an investigation’. It is the first time in the history of France's Fifth Republic that a former head of state has been questioned in police custody – the French term is 'garde à vue'. Sarkozy has been interviewed before, in the course of the Bettencourt affair, but on that occasion he was interviewed simply as a witness because the facts of the case occurred while he was head of state and he benefitted from immunity, though he was later placed under formal investigation before the case against him was dropped. In the current probe the alleged 'influence peddling' took place after he left office.