Fri, 25 Sep 2020

A British court has ordered the extradition of a Franco-Algerian businessman wanted in France as part of a probe into alleged Libyan financing of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign, the National Financial Prosecutor's office told AFP on Thursday.

Alexandre Djourhi, 60, was arrested at Heathrow airport in January 2018 under a European warrant issued by French judges on charges of embezzlement of public funds and corruption.

Djouhri has since been on bail, under house arrest in London, because of heart problems.

French investigators are examining his alleged involvement in the 2008 sale of a villa in the French Alps valued at 1.3 million euros ($1.4 million) at the "inflated price" of about 10 million euros.

A Libyan investment fund managed by Bashir Saleh, the ex-chief of staff of Libya's deposed leader Moamer Kadhafi, bought the property, and Djouhri is suspected of being its true owner, according to a London court ruling last year that ordered his extradition to France.

Djouhri appealed that decision.

He is also accused of paying 500 000 euros to Sarkozy aide Claude Gueant "so that he would use his position to make various interventions to assist Mr Djouhri in his business affairs".

The businessman claims he is the victim of a "judicial trap".

Under European law, British authorities have ten days to execute the court's latest decision, taken Wednesday, to send Djouhri to France. There is no further appeal option.

The businessman has also challenged the validity of the arrest warrants against him, saying he was never on the run.

This appeal will be examined by the Paris Court of Appeal on March 19, along with applications to nullify the probe filed by Sarkozy, Gueant and other former ministers.

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