Nicolas Sarkozy is suspected of attempting to pervert the course of justice on the basis of phone taps ordered by judges investigating his links to Muammar Gaddafi, it emerged yesterday.
The revelation was the latest development in the web of corruption cases threatening to ensnare the former French president and destroy his chances of a political comeback.
Judges started tapping Sarkozy's phones last year after opening a formal investigation into allegations that the late former Libyan dictator Gaddafi helped finance his 2007 election campaign, according to newspaper Le Monde.
Judicial sources confirmed a recorded call between Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, was the basis for a new investigation, opened last week, into a suspected attempt to obtain, via a friendly judge, inside information about ongoing, top secret, proceedings before one of France's highest courts.
The proceedings arise from another election financing scandal in which Sarkozy was embroiled and could affect the outcome of yet another corruption case, centred on a €400 million (HK$4.3 billion) state payout to disgraced tycoon Bernard Tapie.
Herzog said yesterday that Sarkozy "is probably still being tapped" and denounced what he said was a politically motivated plot against his client.
"There was no attempt to pervert the course of justice and in due course this monstrous violation will be shown to have been a political affair," the lawyer said.
An investigation into allegations that Sarkozy accepted millions of euros from Gaddafi was opened in April 2013 on the basis of claims made by one of the dictator's sons, his interpreter and the man who allegedly delivered the cash.
According to Le Monde, the judges in charge of the Libya probe quickly decided they would be justified in tapping the phones of Sarkozy and two of his former ministers, Claude Gueant and Brice Hortefeux.
In December, they discovered that both Sarkozy and his lawyer, Herzog, had acquired second phones which they used exclusively for conversations between themselves.
It was once these phones were tapped that evidence which has formed the basis for the probe launched last week came to light, according to Le Monde.
In one of the recorded conversations, Sarkozy and his lawyer discussed the possibility of approaching a senior judge in connection with a case before France's Court of Cassation.
That court is due to rule next week on whether examining magistrates investigating another election-financing scandal acted legally, notably in relation to the confiscation of Sarkozy's diaries.
The diaries were seized in connection with a probe into alleged illegal financing of Sarkozy's UMP party by France's richest women, Liliane Bettencourt, 91.