Nicolas Sarkozy is quizzed by police over suspicions of “influence-peddling” – the first time that a former French president has been held by police.
Mr Sarkozy arrived to be questioned by investigators in Nanterre, west of Paris, early on Tuesday – after his lawyer was held for questioning on Monday.
The case is one of a string of investigations against the former president. In this case it is claimed that Mr Sarkozy used his influence to get information on an inquiry into funding irregularities in his victorious 2007 election campaign.
The French government said on Tuesday that Mr Sarkozy is “subject to justice just like anyone else”. Mr Sarkozy, who can be held for 48 hours, denies all allegations against him.
Christopher Mesnooh, a lawyer and partner at law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, said: “What we’ve seen this morning is that for the first time ever a former French president is being formally detained and questioned by the legal authorities here in Paris.
Clearly they are directly investigating the prior behaviour of former president Sarkozy himself. Christopher Mesnooh, lawyer
“This probably indicates that the investigation is going to gather steam, and they will be looking not only at the persons around former president Sarkozy, but now clearly they are directly investigating the prior behaviour of former president Sarkozy himself.”
There are currently six legal cases directly or indirectly involving Mr Sarkozy – who has recently suggested that he is considering running for the French presidency again.
His political ambitions have been damaged by allegations against him – but in October last year he got some welcome news when a court dropped inquiries into whether he had exploited the mental frailty of France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, to fund his 2007 election campaign.
However, as investigators used phone-taps to examine separate allegations that late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi funded the same campaign, they began to suspect he had kept tabs on the Bettencourt case through a network of informants.
Those suspicions finally prompted the formal launching of yet another investigation into influence-peddling in February. Sarkozy has likened the magistrates behind the phone-tapping to the Stasi police of former Communist East Germany.