Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, will make history on Monday when he appears in court on charges of corruption and influence peddling.
The case is the first of several investigations against the right-wing politician that led France to appear before judges between 2007 and 2012 after years of attempts to drop or overturn the charges.
In a case known as the “wiretapping affair,” the prosecution alleges that Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, tried to bribe a high-ranking magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, to hand over secret information from a separate investigation against the former French leader. . In return, Sarkozy is accused of offering to help Azibert get a comfortable job on the Côte d’Azur.
Sarkozy has been the target of a variety of legal investigations – from accusations of receiving illicit campaign funding from the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to alleged kickbacks for the sale of arms to Pakistan.
French detectives began monitoring Sarkozy’s communications in September 2013 as part of an investigation into allegations that he had received an undeclared and illegal € 50 million donation from Gaddafi to finance his successful 2007 presidential campaign.
However, what they heard from the recorded conversations pointed the researchers in an entirely new and unexpected direction. They revealed that the former president and Herzog were communicating “secretly” using mobile phones registered under false names. Sarkozy’s phone was attributed to Paul Bismuth.
Additional wiretaps on these phones picked up conversations suggesting that Sarkozy had been in contact with Azibert, then a member of the Cour de Cassation, France’s highest court, via Herzog to request confidential information about a separate investigation into whether Sarkozy received donations from L’Oréal’s ailing heiress, Liliane Bettencourt.
Investigators had seized Sarkozy’s diaries as part of the Bettencourt probe, and the former president allegedly wanted Azibert to find out what they planned to do with them. In return, he is alleged to have promised to speak a word for Azibert to be appointed sinecure in Monaco.
The Bettencourt case was eventually dropped, but by then the investigation of corruption and influence peddling had been opened.
Sarkozy has always vigorously denied any wrongdoing in all past and present investigations. He claimed that the bismuth charges were “an insult to my intelligence.”
Herzog also argued that the tapping and tapping of his phones violated client confidentiality rules, but his repeated attempts to have the discarded evidence or the case dismissed it has failed.
The three defendants, Sarkozy, Herzog and Azibert, are accused of “corruption” and “influence peddling”. Herzog and Azibert are also charged with “breaching professional secrets.” All are at risk of up to 10 years in prison and heavy fines if convicted.
In its search, the National Finance Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) accused Sarkozy of behaving like a “seasoned criminal” and accused his lawyers of “paralyzing” the investigation with numerous resources.
Sarkozy supporters, including former Justice Minister Rachida Dati, have in turn accused the PNF, created under his successor, the socialist François Hollande, of dispensing “political justice.”
But nevertheless, Fabrice Arfi, senior editor for the news website Mediapart, who has conducted several in-depth investigations into allegations of political corruption.he said to Observer Sarkozy’s attempts to divert attention from himself and point the finger at the legal and political system were “pure populism.”
“This is a historic trial for justice in France, since it is the first time that a president will appear before a court accused of corruption. It is absolutely crucial and probably the biggest test France’s anti-corruption judges have ever faced, ”Arfi said.
“Sarkozy is on trial but, instead of responding to the allegations, what he has tried to do is point the finger at the French judicial system and bring it to trial. Here we have a former president who behaves like Berlusconi and Trump ”.
Sarkozy is expected to appear in court next year in another case, the “Bygmalion affair,” in which he is accused of overspending on his 2012 re-election bid. No dates have been set for court hearings in other cases. Sarkozy-related research.
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