CAIRO (AP) — Moammar Gadhafi’s cousin said Thursday that the corruption allegations against former French President Nicolas Sarkozy are “God’s punishment” for his role in the NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed the longtime Libyan leader.
Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, a close aide to Gadhafi based in Cairo, told The Associated Press that he was aware of the millions of euros Gadhafi’s government allegedly gave to Sarkozy.
Investigators are examining allegations that Gadhafi’s regime secretly gave Sarkozy 50 million euros ($62 million) for his successful 2007 presidential campaign. Sarkozy, who was questioned this week by anti-corruption police, faces preliminary charges of illegally funding the campaign, passive corruption and receiving money from Libyan embezzlement.
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
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Gaddaf al-Dam said Libya wanted France’s support for the creation of a so-called United States of Africa, a dream Gadhafi promoted in public speeches up until 2010. “We needed a friend in the Elysee,” Gaddaf al-Dam said. “Fifty million euros are not too much for Africa.”
Sarkozy’s support for the government failed to materialize, however, when Libyans took to the streets in early 2011 in an uprising inspired by the Arab Spring. Gadhafi responded by sending troops and tanks to the eastern city of Benghazi, which had been seized by the rebels, and vowing to hunt them down house by house.
Fearing a massacre, Sarkozy and other Western leaders launched a NATO-led air campaign against Gadhafi’s forces in March of that year. The campaign intensified over the next seven months, eventually allowing the rebels to overthrow the government. The rebels later hunted down Gadhafi and killed him.
“Thank God,” Gaddaf al-Dam, said when asked about Sarkozy’s legal woes. “This is God’s punishment because he was the first to start airstrikes in Libya.”
Speaking from his luxurious apartment overlooking the Nile in Cairo, Gaddaf al-Dam said most of the Libyans involved in the money transfers are imprisoned, dead or in hiding, fearing assassination.
He listed names mentioned in media reports, such as Gadhafi’s onetime treasurer al-Bashir Saleh, who survived a shooting in South Africa last month, and Shukri Ghanem, the former oil minister who was found dead in the Danube River in 2012. Others are being held by Libyan militias, including former Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmoudi and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi.
Gadhafi’s son and onetime heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, is facing charges of crimes against humanity for his role in trying to put down the 2011 uprising. He was pardoned by the Libyan parliament and released in June. He has not been seen in public since then.
Earlier this week, associates announced that he intends to run in upcoming elections. Gaddaf al-Dam said Seif al-Islam has the right to run for president but has not expressed a willingness to do so.
After the fall of Gadhafi, Libya was plunged into chaos. The rebels groups were transformed into militias, some of which are loosely allied with competing governments in the west and east.
Gaddaf al-Dam blames Western countries, saying Gadhafi’s downfall led to “destruction and humiliation.” He says Sarkozy and other Western leaders should be held accountable for turning Libya into a “den of extremism and terrorism.”