French investigators searched former President Nicolas Sarkozy's home and office today as part of a probe into suspected illegal financing of his 2007 presidential campaign by L'Oreal cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt, an official said. Sarkozy, who lost his immunity from prosecution June 15, denies the claims. The probe centers on the finances of France's richest woman: A long-running family feud over Bettencourt's fortune ballooned in 2010 into a multi-layered investigation and political affair.
An accountant for Bettencourt said in 2010 that she gave about $63,000 in cash in 2007 to Sarkozy's party treasurer for the presidential campaign, well beyond the $5,800 legal limit on individual donations. A book released last year suggested that Sarkozy himself received undeclared campaign money. The allegations struck a chord with Sarkozy's critics, who were frustrated with Sarkozy's handling of the recession-hit economy and saw him as too cozy with the rich. (Read more Liliane Bettencourt stories.)