The criminal investigation into Nicolas Sarkozy for allegedly soliciting secret campaign financing from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt has been dropped, French media say.
France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy has been left off a list of those to appear for trial over the “Bettencourt affair”, Le Monde reports.
Nicolas Sarkozy had denied visiting Liliane Bettencourt – alleged to be mentally frail – to solicit cash.
The decision could leave Nicolas Sarkozy clear to contest the 2017 election.
Although unpopular when he lost his attempt to be re-elected in 2012, opinion polls now suggest Nicolas Sarkozy would beat President Francois Hollande in a re-run.
The possibility of a criminal case against Nicolas Sarkozy has, therefore, gripped the media in France.
Liliane Bettencourt’s butler testified that Nicolas Sarkozy was a regular visitor to her home in the run-up to his first election victory in 2007.
It is alleged that one of Nicolas Sarkozy’s aides made separate visits, picking up envelopes stuffed full of cash.
Nicolas Sarkozy insisted that he only saw Liliane Bettencourt – known as France’s richest woman- once during 2007.
The argument came to a dramatic head in March, when a judge summoned both Nicolas Sarkozy and the butler for a face-to-face encounter, after which preliminary charges were filed against the former president.
Those charges have now been dropped, according to Le Monde newspaper and AFP news agency, which quoted a source close to the investigation.