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French prosecutors seek trial for Sarkozy over Libya financing for 2007 campaign

PARIS (AP) — French prosecutors are seeking to send former President Nicolas Sarkozy and 12 others to trial on charges that his 2007 presidential campaign received millions in illegal financing from the government of late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

After a decade of investigation, the French national financial prosecutor’s office announced its decision Friday to seek a trial. It's now up to judges to determine whether to move ahead. In general, judges in France follow such prosecutors' requests, though not always.

The case is the biggest and most shocking of multiple corruption investigations involving Sarkozy. He has been convicted in two others. He denies wrongdoing in all cases.

In the Libya case, he is charged with illegal campaign financing, embezzling, passive corruption and related counts.

Sarkozy has been under investigation in the Libya case since 2013. Investigators examined claims that Gadhafi’s government secretly gave Sarkozy 50 million euros for his winning 2007 French campaign. The sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit at the time, 21 million euros, and would violate French rules against foreign campaign financing.

The investigation gained traction when French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine told news site Mediapart in 2016 that he had delivered suitcases from Libya containing 5 million euros ($6.2 million) in cash to Sarkozy and his former chief of staff. Takieddine later reversed course and Sarkozy sought to have the investigation closed.

After becoming president in 2007, Sarkozy welcomed Gadhafi to France with high honors later that year. Sarkozy then put France at the forefront of NATO-led airstrikes that helped rebel fighters topple Gadhafi’s government in 2011.

In an unrelated case, Sarkozy was sentenced to a year of house arrest for illegal campaign financing of his unsuccessful 2012 reelection bid. He is free while the case is pending appeal.

He also was founded guilty of corruption and influence peddling in another case and sentenced to a year in prison. A decision on his appeal is expected soon.

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This version corrects the number of people sent to trial besides Sarkozy to 12.