[JURIST] A French appeals court ruled Tuesday that an investigation may proceed into allegations that former president Nicolas Sarkozy [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] exploited aging L'Oreal [corporate website] heiress Liliane Bettencourt [Forbes profile] into donating election campaign funds. A panel of judges for the Court of Appeals of Bordeaux denied a motion brought by Sarkozy's lawyers to dismiss key medical testimony that determined Bettencourt has been suffering from dementia since 2006, before Sarkozy allegedly sought funds for his 2007 presidential campaign. Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation for "abuse of weakness" in March but denies any misconduct. Sarkozy's lawyers will have five days to appeal the decision to the Court of Cassation [official website, in French], France's highest appeals court.
Sarkozy is facing several other corruption allegations. In April French authorities opened a judicial investigation into allegations that Sarkozy accepted illicit funds [Reuters report] from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Last June a suit was filed against Sarkozy to investigate his alleged involvement [JURIST report] in the French sale of submarines to Pakistan in the 1990s. In December 2011 Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was convicted [JURIST report] by a French court on corruption charges, receiving a two-year suspended sentence. He was accused of using public funds to support his political goals when he was mayor of Paris. Three months earlier a French prosecutor asked [JURIST report] the court to drop the corruption charges against Chirac. During the same month lawyers for Chirac filed documents with the 11th Criminal Court of Paris claiming that their client was to ill to attend court hearings that was planned to begin after it was delayed [JURIST reports] in March.