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Sarkozy charged over campaign donations

Sarkozy allegedly took funds from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, France's richest woman, for his 2007 election campaign. Lawyer Antoine Gillot told French TV i-Tele that Judge Jean-Michel Gentil in the southwestern city of Bordeaux had placed Sarkozy under investigation, after hours of questioning on Thursday. Under French law, a formal investigation is the final step before a suspect is accused of a crime.  Sarkozy, who only this month hinted he could make a political comeback, repeatedly has denied taking campaign funds from Bettencourt. The exact charge against Sarkozy is "abuse of weakness", since Bettencourt did not have all her "faculties", according to the newspaper Le Monde. Last November, Sarkozy was named a key and potentially indictable witness in an investigation involving 90-year-old  Bettencourt.
 
Sarkozy's lawyer represents Bettencourt's former butler, who was also questioned on Thursday along with the former president.
 
A Paris-based journalist Anne-Elisabeth Moutet told Al Jazeera Sarkozy, 57, could face a suspended jail sentence

A poll published on March 18 showed Sarkozy was the overwhelming favourite among conservative voters to run for
president and for the first time since November 2011, a survey the same week said he also was now more popular than Hollande among the French.
 
The news of the investigation will provide some respite for President Francois Hollande who is being battered in the polls for his handling of the economy.

Hollande also suffered a setback this week when budget minister and cabinet heavyweight Jerome Cahuzac was forced to resign over a tax-fraud inquiry.

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