French Ex-President Investigated in Corruption Probe

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is under formal investigation in a tangled corruption inquiry that risks derailing his widely anticipated political comeback.

Ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy returned home Wednesday with the news he was under formal investigation, after spending an unprecedented 15 hours in police custody outside Paris. 

Magistrates are looking into whether Sarkozy used his influence to interfere with a probe into alleged irregularities involving his 2007 election campaign. His lawyer and a high ranking judge are also under investigation.

Interviewed on France's BFM television, Prime Minister Manuel Valls described the situation as serious. He called for judicial independence and said nobody was above the law, but also that the presumption of innocence should be upheld.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy leaves his residence in Paris on July 2, 2014. /Reuters Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy leaves his residence in Paris on July 2, 2014. /Reuters

Sarkozy has vehemently denied all allegations of misconduct, suggesting they are politically motivated.

Wednesday, supporters like Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi from Sarkozy's conservative UMP party rallied behind him.

Speaking on French radio, Estrosi questioned the impartiality of at least one of the judges probing the allegations, and accused the Socialist government of sowing hatred in the country.

The probe is likely to further deepen public disenchantment in their elected officials. President Fran├žois Hollande is deeply unpopular, French are worried about joblessness and the sluggish economy and the far-right National Front Party surged in May elections for the European Parliament.

VOA News / Jul. 03, 2014 08:04 KST