French ex-President Sarkozy held over influence claims

The latest developments are seen as a blow to Mr Sarkozy’s attempts to stand again for the presidency

French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has been detained for questioning over alleged influence peddling.

Mr Sarkozy is being held at Nanterre, near Paris, in an unprecedented step against a former president.

Mr Sarkozy’s lawyer was questioned on Monday on suspicion of seeking inside information about a case against the former leader.

The latest developments are seen as a blow to Mr Sarkozy’s attempts to challenge for the presidency in 2017.

Investigators are trying to find out whether Mr Sarkozy, 59, who was president from 2007 to 2012, had promised a prestigious role in Monaco to a high-ranking judge in exchange for information.

Gilbert Azibert, one of the most senior judges at the court of appeal, was also called in for questioning on Monday. Another judge, Patrick Sassoust, was also held. The decision to detain Mr Sarkozy is thought to be the first time a French former head of state has been held in police custody.

His predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was however given a suspended prison sentence in 2011 for embezzlement and breach of trust while he was mayor of Paris.

Investigators will be able to hold Mr Sarkozy for an initial period of 24 hours but can extend custody for another day.

It is alleged that Mr Sarkozy was kept informed of proceedings against him while a decision was being made over whether his work diaries should be kept in the hands of the justice system.

The diaries were seized after claims in 2010 about campaign funding dating back to the 2007 presidential election

The Court of Cassation said in March 2014 he could not have the diaries back

The diaries are reportedly now part of a separate inquiry into alleged funding by late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi

Mr Sarkozy’s phone was tapped by investigators look into the Libyan allegations

The investigators believe the former president was tipped off that his phone was being bugged.

Mr Sarkozy insists the allegations against him are politically motivated.