The former ex French President has reportedly been summoned to Bordeaux as part of an inquiry concerning the heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics group Liliane Bettencourt, 89.
It also represents a new stain on the reputation of the French political class as a whole after Jacques Chirac, Mr Sarkozy’s predecessor, was given a two-month suspended sentence for misuse of public funds last year.
Mr Sarkozy’s supporters fear that his career could be finished if he is placed under formal investigation on suspicion of exploiting Mrs Bettencourt, who suffers from dementia.
They hope he will instead be given the status of “assisted witness”, which would mean that he is not formally considered a suspect but would leave open the possibility of a prosecution at a later date.
Jean-Marc Gentil, the magistrate leading the inquiry, has heard evidence from Mrs Bettencourt’s former employees claiming that she gave wads of cash to Mr Sarkozy to fund his 2007 presidential election campaign.
Claire Thibout, Mrs Bettencourt’s former accountant, said she had been told to make funds of €150,000 available for the centre-right leader, for instance.
Judge Gentil has also discovered that between 2007 and 2009 up to €4 million in cash was taken out of Mrs Bettencourt’s Swiss bank accounts and brought to Paris in suitcases. He suspects that some of the money ended up with Mr Sarkozy.
The former President denies wrongdoing. But he is facing a separate inquiry over allegations that he misused public funds to commission for more than 300 opinion polls for €9.4 million while in office.