Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin has been placed under formal investigation over the so-called Clearstream affair. Amid claims he tried to smear Nicolas Sarzoky, who became the country’s president in May, he denied any wrongdoing.
“I would really like to repeat this morning that I, at no time, asked for political figures to be investigated,” he told reporters as he emerged from questioning by judges. “At no time did I participate in any political scheming.” The ex-premier faces preliminary charges of “complicity in libellous allegations” and other counts related to fake documents. Sarkozy and other senior figures were falsely accused of having secret bank accounts in the Luxembourg clearing house Clearstream to hold bribes for arms sales. Intelligence officer General Philippe Rondot’s computer delivered information that prompted a hardening of accusations against de Villepin, whose office and home have been searched. During the alleged smear campaign, he and Nicolas Sarkozy, then a minister, were seen as rivals within the conservative camp in the run-up to the presidential election. Ex-French head of state Jacques Chirac has always refused to be questioned over the affair.