Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy told magistrates on Wednesday there was ‘no evidence’ in claims he received illicit Libyan funding for his 2007 campaign and that accusations were making his life “hell”, a French newspaper says.

Conservative daily Le Figaro published a lengthy account of Sarkozy’s purported comments to investigators who told him after two days in custody that he was formally suspected of passive corruption and other offences.

“This calumny has made my life a living hell since March 11, 2011,” the newspaper quoted the 63-year-old as saying. “I stand accused without any material evidence,” Sarkozy reportedly told judges.

Being placed under “formal investigation” in France indicates that magistrates have found sufficient evidence of wrongdoing – in this case of illegal campaign financing, “passive” corruption and the misuse of Libyan public funds – that the investigation can go forward, possibly to trial.

Prosecutors are looking into allegations that former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi secretly gave Sarkozy €50 million for his inaugural presidential campaign in 2007. The allegations were first made by one of the late dictator’s sons, Saif al-Islam, in 2011.

The case drew heightened scrutiny in November 2016 when Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine said he delivered three suitcases stuffed with Libyan cash to Sarkozy’s former chief of staff and campaign director, Claude Guéant, between 2006 and 2007.

In January, British police detained French businessman Alexandre Djouhri at Heathrow Airport as part of the long-running investigation into Sarkozy’s suspected Libyan financing. A spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed Djouhri’s arrest was executed “under a European arrest warrant” for fraud and money laundering.

Sarkozy has always denied the allegations.

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