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Ex-French president questioned in campaign fraud case

PARIS - Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is being questioned by judges investigating the finances of his failed 2012 re-election campaign.

Sarkozy, a conservative who is positioning to run again next year, appeared Tuesday before judges investigating the invoice system between his party, then called UMP, and a company named Bygmalion allegedly used to conceal unauthorized overspending.

France had a campaign finance ceiling in 2012 of 22.5 million euros ($25 million). Sarkozy is accused of overspending by 17 million euros ($19 million).

Several people close to Sarkozy, including his former top adviser, already face preliminary charges in the case, one of several linked to the former president, who lost to Francois Hollande in 2012. He has already been fined 364,000 euros ($407,000) for overspending in the case.

The former conservative party leader has fought back against the charges in the highly publicized judicial investigation linked to allegations that he took 50 million euros ($67 million) in illegal campaign funds from Libya's Muammar Qaddafi.

He was even detained by officials for a period of time for questioning, a highly unusual move for the French judicial system.

Former French President Jacques Chirac was convicted in a corruption investigation in 2011 after he left office, but when he was questioned he was not held in police custody.

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