- Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy travelled to Canada seeking refuge with a Canadian billionaire Paul Desmarais
- Sarkozy allegedly accepted bribes from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt
- Police swept his Paris mansion and office on Tuesday
As the former French leader and his wife Carla Bruni sought refuge in the home of a Canadian billionaire, it has emerged that the pair fled just hours before his Paris home and office was raided by anti-corruption police.
Although the former president has made no public comment, friends of his were quoted in Le Parisien newspaper as saying: “I know they’ll come looking for me. Nothing will come of it all.”
The couple pictured after meeting Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, only a few days before they took off to Canada
Mr Sarkozy is currently seeking refuge in the Montreal home of 86-year-old Canadian businessman Paul Desmarais.
That is sure to raise eyebrows in France as well because Sarkozy awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest civilian award, in 2008.
His Paris residence was raided amid allegations that the ex-President accepted thousands of pounds in cash from France’s richest woman.
Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oreal cosmetics heiress, is said to have provided the money in brown envelopes to fund Sarkozy’s political career in return for future tax breaks.
Sarkozy’s immunity from prosecution ended last month after he lost his re-election bid, and on Tuesday detectives launched dawn swoops on three addresses connected with him.
The night before, Sarkozy and his third wife left their Paris mansion with their baby daughter, Giulia, and flew to Montreal.
Officially, Sarkozy would not have been given any warning of the police raids.
Commentators are also pointing to the fact that the Sarkozy family only recently returned from a month-long break in Morocco, making claims of a ‘holiday’ in Canada highly suspicious.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy leave after a handover ceremony at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, 15 May 2012
Instead, it appears that Sarkozy has once again relied on his fabulously wealthy contacts to help him during a personal and professional crisis.
Desmarais, the CEO of the media and financial services giant Power Corporation of Canada, is said to be worth well over £20billion.
Sarkozy has frequently described Desmarais as a mentor, saying in 2008: ‘If I am president today, it is in part due to Paul Desmarais.’ In February 2008, Sarkozy returned the favour by giving Desmarais the grand-croix (great-cross) of the Legion of Honour.
One of Desmarais’s daughters, Sophie, was married to Eric Le Moyne de Serigny, a former closer advisor to Sarkozy who has also been implicated in the so-called Bettencourt Affair. During his presidency, Sarkozy was frequently accused of solely being interested in the super-rich.
He infamously celebrated his presidential victory in 2007 with a number of multi-billionaire friends in Fouquet’s, an upmarket Paris restaurant. Desmarais was on the guest list.
Judge Jean-Michel Gentil believes that Mrs Bettencourt may have illegally contributed two separate payments of £335,000 to Mr Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign. Both were traced to Swiss accounts, and one was allegedly received by Sarkozy in person in Paris.
Sarkozy is also facing allegations that he profited from illegal arms sales to Pakistan, and that he accepted millions from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Sarkozy denies all the charges, with his lawyer Thierry Herzog saying the searches of his home and two lawyers offices linked to him would ‘find nothing’.
Mr Herzog claimed that the Sarkozy family was merely ‘on holiday’ in Canada, and would return to France in around two weeks.
(Source : www.dailymail.co.uk)