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.
The case arose from a probe by Bordeaux magistrates into alleged illegal donations to Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign.
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.