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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been placed under formal investigation in relation to a case involving France’s richest woman.

The 58-year-old is under investigation for “abuse of weakness” in an election campaign funding case involving L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

It is alleged staff acting for Bettencourt gave 150,000 euros in cash to the former president’s aides during his successful presidential campaign in 2007.

Police raided Sarkozy’s home and offices last July after he lost his presidential immunity.

Under French law, a formal investigation is the final step before a suspect is accused of a crime.

Sarkozy has repeatedly denied taking campaign funds from the L’Oreal heiress who was declared in a state of dementia back in 2006.

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