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Prosecutor calls for Sarkozy charges to be dropped


The prosecutor in a corruption probe centred on Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign called Friday for the charges against the former French president and five other suspects to be dropped.

Sarkozy was charged in March with accepting envelopes stuffed with cash from France's richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt, when she was too frail to know what she was doing.

The three examining magistrates in charge of the case do not have to follow the prosecutor's recommendation and have ignored previous recommendations that the charges against Sarkozy be dismissed.

The magistrates now have until the end of July to decide who, if any, of the 12 people who have been charged in the case should be sent for trial.

As well as Sarkozy, the prosecutor recommended the dismissal of charges against former minister Eric Woerth, who acted as the campaign treasurer for the former president.

Sarkozy is suspected of securing up to four million euros in financing for his 2007 campaign from L'Oreal heiress Bettencourt, who has suffered from dementia since 2006. Bettencourt is 90.

If convicted, he faces up to three years in jail, a fine of 375,000 euros ($480,000), and a five-year ban from public office which would destroy any hope he entertains of making a political comeback.

Sarkozy is also being investigated over allegations that he accepted up to 50 million euros ($65 million) cash from former Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi for the 2007 campaign.

He is also the subject of ongoing investigations into alleged cronyism in the awarding of contracts for opinion polls during his time as president, an illegal police investigation into journalists and alleged kickbacks on a Pakistani arms deal.