French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday rejected as "grotesque" claims by lawyers for former Libyan premier Baghdadi al-Mahmudi that Moamer Kadhafi's regime funded his 2007 election campaign.
Sarkozy's spokeswoman in his current election campaign, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, in a statement dismissed Mahmudi's claim, as did a French-based lawyer who also claimed to be representing Mahmudi, Marcel Ceccaldi.
"How can one for one second give credit to the declarations of a Kadhafi regime former accomplice when they are, by chance, directed against the person who led the international coalition that came to the help of the Libyan people?" Kosciusko-Morizet.
Lawyers first made the claim Thursday in Tunisia, where Mahmudi is in custody after fleeing Libya, saying he had told them the Kadhafi regime had financed Sarkozy's 2007 presidential election campaign to the tune of 50 million euros ($65 million).
On Friday, lawyer Slim ben Othman told AFP the matter was even raised in a Tunisian court during an October 25 hearing.
"The question was posed before a judge," ben Othman said. "His response is recorded in court minutes."
Ben Othman said his client claimed to have personally handed 50 million euros to Sarkozy representatives in Geneva.
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"A case containing the cash was given over by Mahmudi, accompanied by other Libyan ex-leaders," ben Othman said, adding that documentary proof of the purported transaction had been placed in "several European capitals."
Another lawyer, Mabrouk Kourchid, said two other European countries had also benefited from Kadhafi's cash. He did not elaborate.
The allegations came after the French news website Mediapart published a document Saturday which it said showed Libya's financing of Sarkozy's campaign.
Sarkozy himself angrily dismissed Mediapart's document as a forgery timed to destabilise his re-election campaign and is taking legal action against the website.
Mediapart had posted what it said was a 2006 document signed by former Libyan intelligence chief Mussa Kussa referring to an "agreement in principle to support the 2007 campaign for the candidate for the presidential elections, Nicolas Sarkozy, for a sum equivalent to 50 million euros."
Kussa, who is in exile in Doha, has dismissed the document as a fake.
Mahmudi is in critical condition and has been hospitalised for an internal haemorrhage, the lawyers said.
He is fighting extradition to Libya, where he fears he faces summary execution.