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Investigators search Sarkozy's home

French investigators searched former president Nicolas Sarkozy's home and office as part of a probe into suspected illegal financing of his 2007 presidential campaign by the L'Oreal cosmetics heiress, an official said.

Potential legal troubles have threatened Mr Sarkozy since he lost the presidency to Socialist Francois Hollande in May elections.

Mr Sarkozy, who lost his immunity from prosecution on June 15, denies wrongdoing.

Judge Jean-Michel Gentil and other investigators from the Paris financial crimes unit conducted the search of Mr Sarkozy's home and offices, the official said.

The probe centres on the finances of France's richest woman, L'Oreal cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

A long-running family feud over her fortune ballooned in 2010 into a multi-layered investigation and political affair.

Allegations emerged that Ms Bettencourt provided illegal campaign cash to Mr Sarkozy's party during the 2007 campaign. Mr Sarkozy vigorously denies the claims.

The allegations struck a chord with Mr Sarkozy's critics, who were frustrated with his handling of the recession-hit economy and saw him as too cosy with the rich.

An accountant for Ms Bettencourt said in 2010 that she gave 50,000 euro (£40,000) in cash in 2007 to Mr Sarkozy's party treasurer for the presidential campaign - well beyond the 4,600 euro (£3,700) legal limit on individual donations. A book released last year suggested that Mr Sarkozy himself received undeclared campaign money. Mr Sarkozy denies the claims.

The case also stirred up debate over media freedom. Le Monde filed a lawsuit accusing Mr Sarkozy's office of using counterintelligence services to identify a source leaking information about the investigation. Mr Sarkozy's office said it had never given such instructions to an intelligence agency.

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