Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was being held in police custody on Tuesday for questioning by magistrates looking into allegations of Libyan funding for his 2007 election campaign, an official in the French judiciary said.
A lawyer for Sarkozy could not be reached immediately for comment.
France opened a judicial inquiry in 2013 into allegations that Sarkozy’s successful 2007 election bid benefited from illicit funds from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
A former minister and close ally of Sarkozy, Brice Hortefeux, was also being questioned by police on Tuesday morning in relation to the Libya investigation, another source close to the probe said.
Sarkozy, who served as president from 2007 to 2012, has always denied receiving any illicit campaign funding and has dismissed the Libyan allegations as “grotesque”.
In January a French businessman, Alexandre Djouhri , suspected by investigators of funnelling money from Gaddafi to finance Sarkozy’s campaign was arrested in Britain and granted bail after he appeared in a London court.
In a report by The Guardian of London, another French-Lebanese businessman in 2016 publicly repeated claims that the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi gave €50m (£43m) to fund Nicolas Sarkozy’s successful 2007 campaign for the French presidency.
He confirmed the statement by Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, in 2011 that Mr Sarkozy had accepted millions of euros from him and his father to finance his successful 2007 election run.
In a film published on the investigative news website Mediapart, Ziad Takieddine, who introduced Sarkozy to Gaddafi, insists he handed over cases stuffed with cash to the former French leader and his chief of staff, Claude Guéant.
Acting out the scene, Takieddine says in the video: “It was a case like that. It opened like this. And the money was inside.”
He told Mediapart: “I have discovered things that should no longer be hidden. I wish to denounce the mafia state in which we are currently living.”
The allegations first emerged five years ago, but Takieddine’s claims are potentially damaging because they come days before Sarkozy seeks the presidential nomination of the centre-right Les Républicains party. The first round of the party’s primaries, in which Sarkozy is trailing Alain Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux, will be held on Sunday.
Sarkozy has already been ordered to stand trial in a separate matter concerning financing of his failed re-election campaign in 2012, when he was defeated by Francois Hollande.