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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

French-Algerian fixer linked to Sarkozy probe on £2m bail  

Alexandre Djouhri was released on health grounds after collapsing in prison with heart problems and resuscitated with electric shocks

Alexandre Djouhri leaves after reporting to a police station shortly after he was arrested in January. AFP
Alexandre Djouhri leaves after reporting to a police station shortly after he was arrested in January. AFP

A French-Algerian businessman held over the alleged illegal funding of Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2012 presidential re-election bid has been granted £2 million bail in the UK after collapsing with serious heart problems in prison, according to officials.

Alexandre Djouhri was being held in a south London prison earlier this month when he collapsed and required electric shock treatment to resuscitate him, according to a court official.

The businessman, 59, was arrested in January accused of fraud and money laundering when he arrived at London’s Heathrow airport from Switzerland where he lives.

The arrest warrant was issued by French authorities investigating the alleged illegal funding of Mr Sarkozy’s campaign by the regime of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Mr Djouhri was freed after representations by his legal team but his bail was revoked on February 26 after France issued a second arrest warrant.

He was sent to the grim and overcrowded Wandsworth prison where he collapsed before being treated in the intensive care unit of a south London hospital.

He was returned to prison but freed on March 23 subject to strict bail conditions, which included providing the surety and having to remain under curfew at his £3 million London home for 20 hours every day.

Details of his condition emerged on Thursday as Mr Sarkozy learned that he would face trial for allegedly misusing his authority to secure information from highly-placed contacts about a separate campaign funding inquiry. He has been dogged but campaign funding inquiries since he left office in 2012.

The one-term president was arrested earlier this month over allegations first made in 2011 that the Libyans had bankrolled his successful run for the presidency.

Documents and statements made by French investigative website Mediapart suggested that the secret funding allegedly amounted to some 50 million euros. Mr Sarkozy denies the allegations and claims that the lurid publicity around the case meant that he narrowly lost the 2012 election.

Mr Sarkozy was one of the advocates of a Nato-led military campaign that resulted in Qaddafi’s overthrown and killing in 2011 and says that the claims made against him are revenge for his backing of the rebels.

Businessman Mr Djouhri – known as a wealthy fixer for the French elite in North Africa – rose to prominence after acting as an attempted peace maker between Mr Qaddafi and the rebels attacking the regime’s hold on Tripoli.

French prosecutors want to question him over the 2009 sale of a luxury villa in the south of France to a Libyan investment fund for a suspiciously high price of 10 million euros. The villa was sold to a fund managed by Qaddafi’s former chief of staff Bashir Saleh.

Mr Djouhri is also suspected of helping Mr Saleh to flee from France to South Africa in the days after Mr Sarkozy lost his 2012 re-election bid. Prosecutors say the businessman was secretly recorded promising to send judges a letter denying Mr Saleh’s involvement in financing Mr Sarkozy’s campaign.

The heart problems have not postponed plans for a full extradition hearing in July, according to officials, but judge Emma Arbuthnot is reviewing his bail every week

Mr Djouhri has been ordered to wear an electronic tag to ensure he does not flee Britain and has been told to keep a fully charged mobile phone with him at all times.

He has also been told that he cannot roam too far from his home in the upmarket district of Chelsea in west London other than to seek hospital treatment or for pre-arranged meetings with his lawyers.

He has had to hand over his French and Algerian passports to the police and is not allowed to go anywhere near ports, airports or international railway stations.

The court was told that Mr Djouhri has been suffering from an abnormal heart rhythm. He has had a small device implanted to monitor his heart rate and potentially deliver electric shocks if the problems reach dangerous levels. Doctors are still investigating the underlying causes of the problems.

His lawyers declined to comment.

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