Denouncing a “scandal that will go down in history,” the 65-year-old former head of state promises to be combative in court in this unprecedented trial.
Before him, another former French president, Jacques Chirac, was tried – and sentenced in 2011 to two years in prison with suspension – for fictitious employments at Paris City Hall made when he was mayor of the French capital. But this is the first time a former French president has been tried for corruption. Retired from politics after losing the French right-wing domestic race for the 2017 presidential election, Sarkozy faces up to ten years in prison and a € 1 million fine for corruption and influence peddling, as do the other two defendants, who are on trial and for breach of professional secrecy.
The interception case has its origins in another court case that threatens Sarkozy, the one related to the suspicions regarding the financing of his 2007 presidential campaign with money received from the former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. In March 2012, the investigative website Mediapart published a document stating that in 2007, France had sold control equipment to Libya on the Internet, a contract that was allegedly used to finance the election campaign through a commission of inquiry. 50 million euros. A year later, when Sarkozy was no longer at the Elysee Palace, the French judiciary decided to start investigating the case, RFI notes.
As part of the Libyan investigation, prosecutors decided in September 2013 to intercept Sarkozy’s conversations, discovering early next year that he was using a secret telephone line with a prepaid card purchased under the name “Paul Bismuth” to communicate with the lawyer. his Thierry Herzog. According to the indictment of the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF), during his presidential term Sarkozy tried, with the help of lawyer Thierry Herzog, to obtain some secret information from a senior magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, regarding an investigation targeting him in the ‘Bettencourt affair’. in exchange for the promise of a prestigious position in Monaco for the latter, a position which Azibert did not obtain in the end.
After the “Bettencourt” case was acquitted at the end of 2013, Sarkozy applied to the Court of Cassation to obtain the annulment of the confiscation of his presidential agendas, fearing that the information contained in them could be used against him in other investigations. During the proceedings related to this notification, Sarkozy allegedly tried in 2014 to obtain the respective secret information from Gilbert Azibert, at that time a judge at the Court of Cassation. The validation of the interceptions, in March 2016, by the highest court of France was a major defeat for the former president, who claimed that the transcription of the discussions between a lawyer and his client is illegal.