French leave

Ex-president may face legal questions sooner than he thinks

After Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential re-election campaign came a cropper, it seems that at least he has a back-up plan – law.

Sarkozy is to swap the presidential cabinet for his former cabinet – law firm SELAS Arnaud Claude & Associés, which he co-founded with Arnaud Claude and Michel Leibovici in 1987.

Although Sarkozy has not practised law for several years, according to a wealth statement to France’s Constitutional Council last year he still owns around 34 per cent of the law firm.

But before he steps back into the legal world he may have a few people to answer to. When he officially leaves office on 15 May he will lose his presidential immunity and may be summoned to answer questions on several corruption scandals. This could include defending claims over his alleged involvement in the infamous ’Karachi affair’, allegations that L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt illegally funded his election campaign in 2007 and even suspected irregularities in the financing of former prime minister Edouard Balladur’s presidential campaign in 1995, when Sarkozy was Balladur’s campaign spokesman and budget minister.

It could be déjà vu for les Français, since former president Jacques Chirac was given a two-year suspended prison sentence for diverting public funds and abusing public trust in December 2011.

Sarkozy may have had a tough few months on the campaign trail, but the coming weeks could be just as taxing.