Paris (AFP)

After two years of legal battle, the British justice system will hand over to France the businessman Alexandre Djouhri, key protagonist of the investigation into suspicions of Libyan financing of the presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.

A British court confirmed on Wednesday the decision, made in February 2019 by the Westminster court, to hand over Mr. Djouhri to the French anti-corruption magistrates, AFP learned from the national financial prosecutor's office and from British judicial source, confirming an information of Marianne .

The Franco-Algerian businessman had been arrested in January 2018 at London airport, under a European arrest warrant issued by French justice, notably for "embezzlement of public funds" and "corruption" .

According to European texts, the British justice has ten days to execute this decision which is not subject to appeal, specified a judicial source. This period may however be extended by ten days for exceptional reasons.

Alexandre Djouhri, 60, is eagerly awaited by French investigating judges who wish to indict him, the investigations having revealed several suspicious financial flows implicating him in this case.

- Flemish painting -

The name of this friend of former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin then of Claude Guéant, ex-minister of Nicolas Sarkozy, appeared in the investigation for the sale in 2009 of a villa located in Mougins, on the Côte- d'Azur, to a Libyan fund managed by Bachir Saleh, a former dignitary of the Gaddafi regime.

He is suspected of having been, behind several nominees, the true owner and of having sold it at an overvalued price, making it possible to hide possible occult payments.

"It is imagination and machination, I never had a villa as a nominee and I never sold a villa to Bachir Saleh", he defended himself last March on LCI.

During a search of his home in Geneva in March 2015, the discovery of an RIB in the name of Mr. Guéant also intrigued the magistrates.

They suspect the right arm of Nicolas Sarkozy to have received 500,000 euros to compensate various interventions in favor of Mr. Djouhri, in particular with EADS (now Airbus group) from whom the businessman would have claimed several million d commission for a sale of planes to Libya.

Claude Guéant has always maintained that this sum was the fruit of the sale of two paintings of Flemish painting.

- € 1.13 million deposit -

But French investigators could not audition the elusive "Monsieur Alexandre", his nickname in the political world, which had avoided France since 2015.

The courts therefore decided to issue a first arrest warrant in December 2017, supplemented by new charges against him in February 2018, after his arrest.

But Mr. Djouhri, who has repeatedly denounced "political" justice and "persecution", disputes its validity.

His defense claims that Swiss law did not compel this Swiss resident to go to France. And that the informal summons of the investigators, by e-mail and by phone in July 2016, did not respect the French procedure.

"They made a search (at his home, note), they found absolutely nothing so they invented a leak to be able to arrest me in London," he said at the end of the court in February 2019.

Hospitalized after a series of heart accidents, he had been placed under house arrest in the British capital, after having paid 1.13 million euros in bail.

His appeals against the mandates must be examined on March 19 by the Paris Court of Appeal, at the same time as requests for nullity filed by Nicolas Sarkozy, his former ministers Claude Guéant, Eric Woerth and Brice Hortefeux, all put under investigation except this last.

Testimonies of Libyan dignitaries, notes from the Tripoli secret services, accusations of an intermediary ... After six years of work, a sum of disturbing evidence has given substance to the thesis of funding by the Gaddafi regime Nicolas Sarkozy's victorious presidential campaign.

But no physical evidence has been found, although suspicious movements of funds have led to eight indictments to date.

© 2020 AFP