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Spy chief charged with spying

Sarkozy ally accused of 'illegally collecting data' as he hunted justice ministry mole

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FRANCE'S No1 spy has been charged with "illegally collecting data", "violating confidential communications" and "violating the confidentiality of sources" of a journalist at Le Monde.

Bernard Squarcini, who is said to be a close friend of President Nicolas Sarkozy, is the head of the Direction Central du Renseignement Intérieur. He has been charged to allow further investigations by judge Silvie Zimmerman.

He is reported as having told Ms Zimmerman that he had been asked by the head of the Police National, Frédéric Péchenard, to identify a mole in the office of the Garde des Sceaux at the justice ministry.

The mole had been leaking details of the legal battle between France's richest woman, L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, and her daughter to Le Monde which led to allegations of politicians - including Eric Woerth, who managed Sarkozy's 2007 presidential election - receiving illegal cash donations from the multi-billionairess.

This week a judge appointed guardians to look after Mme Bettencourt's affairs due to her declining mental health as she has dementia and Alzheimer's.

Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande and Greens candidate Eva Joly have called for Squarcini to resign but Prime Minister François Fillon and Interior Minister Claude Gueant have replied saying that he was entitled to the presumption of innocence.

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