French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy was charged late Thursday with criminal exploitation of elderly L'Oreal cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt in a campaign finance affair, his lawyer said, DPA reported.
He was questioned for 12 hours in November in the investigation.
The conservative Sarkozy, 58, was president from 2007-12, losing his re-election bid in May to Socialist Francois Hollande.
Sarkozy is accused of taking advantage of a vulnerable person. Bettencourt, a billionaire, is one of the wealthiest women in the world.
Last year, Sarkozy vigorously denied receiving 150,000 euros (191,982 dollars) toward his campaign from the now 90-year-old Bettencourt, who was placed under legal guardianship in 2011 after doctors said she was suffering from dementia.
Under French law, individual campaign contributions are capped at 4,600 euros.