Friends: French President Nicolas Sarkozy (left) pictured with Colonel Gaddafi (right) in 2007, who it is alleged gave him £42million
Nicolas Sarkozy received up to £42million from Colonel Gaddafi to fund his election as French president, it was sensationally claimed today.
Extraordinary evidence made public in Paris is said to prove that the two former close allies had an illegal financial arrangement which propelled Mr Sarkozy to power in 2007.
A governmental briefing note published by Mediapart, the hugely respected investigative website, points to numerous visits to Libya by Mr Sarkozy and his colleagues which were aimed at securing funding.
One, which is referred to in the note as having taken place on October 6, 2005, led to 'campaign finance to NS (Nicolas Sarkozy)' being 'totally solved'.
At the time Mr Sarkozy was an ambitious Interior Minister who was raising money for his presidential election campaign, even though taking cash from a notorious tyrant would have broken political financing laws.
Mediapart claims that €50million referred to in the note was laundered through bank accounts in Panama and Switzerland.
The Swiss account was opened in the name of the sister of Jean-Francois Cope, the leader of Mr Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, and the President's right-hand-man.
The money was then distributed through an arms dealer called Ziad Takieddine, who was used to acting as a middle man between Arab despots and French politicians.
The revelations follow Gaddafi's son and former heir, Saif-Al Islam Gaddafi, last year stating unambiguously that Libya had financed Mr Sarkozy’s election.
Saif-Al Islam, who is now being held in Libya following the toppling of his father’s regime, said: 'Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We funded it. We have all the details and are ready to reveal everything.
The first thing we want this clown to do is to give the money back to the Libyan people. He was given the assistance so he could help them, but he has disappointed us. Give us back our money.'
Eyebrows were first raised when Colonel Gaddafi was honoured with a state visit to Paris in late 2007. He was referred to as the 'Brother Leader' by the French, and allowed to pitch his trademark tent next to the Elysee Palace.
Now the incriminating evidence has finally emerged through a thorough investigation into Ziad Takieddine's activities. It is Mr Takieddine's doctor, Didier Grosskopf, who has told investigating judges in Paris that he went on many of the trips to Libya and witnessed negotiations about party funding.
They also involved Brice Hortefeux, one of Mr Sarkozy's closes government allies, who has confirmed to Medipart that the meetings took place, but would not comment further, beyond denying any wrongdoing.
The allegedly incriminating note, which is in the hands of the French police as well as examining judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke, was leaked to Mediapart along with other documents.
These includes at least three letters sent from Mr Sarkozy and his colleagues to the Libyan leader in 2005 alone, as well as details of 'one-on-one negotiations' between Mr Sarkozy and Colonel Gaddafi.
Another witnesses who has given evidence in the growing scandal is British woman Nicola Johnson, who has been involved in an acrimonious divorce from Mr Takieddine, her husband of 30 years.
She alleged that Mr Horfefeux visited their luxurious Paris home in 2005 to pick up a large cash payment from Mr Takieddine. As France's head of state, Mr Sarkozy cannot be prosecuted while in office, but looks likely to lose the presidential election in May to his Socialist rival, Francois Hollande.
This would pave the way for a full investigation into Mr Sarkozy's party funding activities.
Mr Sarkozy famously turned on his friend, Colonel Gaddafi, at the beginning of the Arab Spring. French jets were the first to attack Gaddafi’s tanks in a brutal military campaign which ended with the Libyan leader being murdered. The Elysee Palace would not comment on today’s revelations.