Nicolas sarkozy sits this Monday on the dock of the Paris Court of Cassation prosecuted for “corruption” and “influence peddling” in the ‘Bismuth affair’. For the first time in French judicial history, a former president is facing such charges, the maximum penalty of which is ten years in prison and a one million euro fine. High magistrate Gilbert Azibert and lawyer Thierry Herzog, a close friend and lawyer of the former president, will also appear as defendants.
The ‘Bismuth case’, known as the ‘wiretapping affair’, is a case within a case, a story worthy of a thriller. It all started at the end of 2013, when the Paris Judicial Court was investigating the alleged Libyan financing of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2007. The investigating judge, Serge Tournaire, decided to put the former president under surveillance and discovered the existence of two credit cards. prepaid used under a pseudonym between Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog. The former president’s phone line was opened with the fictitious name of Paul Bismuth.
Sarkozy’s personal agendas
Far from the illicit financing linked to the Libyan regime, the investigators discovered a new plot that affected, this time, another judicial dossier also starring Sarkozy: the ‘Bettencourt affair’, where the ex-president was accused of “abuse of weakness” vis-a-vis of the billionaire L’Oréal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt. Although Sarkozy’s indictment was ultimately dismissed, the former president had a particular concern: the whereabouts and use of their agendas, seized in the framework of said investigation.
Then, Sarkozy demanded justice retrieve your agendas to protect your content, which could be used in other investigations, specifically in the proceedings against Christine Lagarde, former director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and former Minister of the Economy, in the arbitration case of Bernard Tapie. This is where the high magistrate Gilbert Azibert, then first general counsel of the Second Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court, enters the scene.
Justice suspects that Thierry Herzog, Sarzoky’s friend and lawyer, obtained confidential information on the appeal of the agendas thanks to the magistrate, who would have agreed to filter judicial elements in exchange for the patronage of the former president to get a position in Monaco. Charged with “corruption” and “influence peddling”, Gilbert Azibert and Thierry Herzog are also charged with “violate the summary secret”.
The trio answers all the accusations of the court. The high magistrate Gilbert Azibert did not get his position in Monaco and Nicolas Sarkozy did not recover his agendas, nor would he have, a priori, intervened to support his eventual appointment in the principality. Thus, justice has no material proof of the corrupt montage. However, for the magistrates it is not necessary “that the corrupt pact is actually carried out” to constitute an offense: “the mere request or acceptance is enough to commit a crime”, estimates the judicial resolution.
Sarkozy has repeatedly tried to challenge the wiretapping, the backbone of the entire judicial process, claiming that it involves confidential conversations between a lawyer and his client, protected by professional secrecy. A line of defense that will be exploited again by the defense of the former president.
The trial, which will last three weeks, will have to clarify to what extent Sarkozy participated or not in the corruption plot. Despite the seriousness of the crimes he is charged with, the former president continues to have the support of his in-laws. “We support our president because we believe that cruelty against him is bad for democracy. In addition, beyond Nicolas Sarkozy, I am concerned about the excessive judicialization of French political life “, commented the leader of the conservative deputies The Republicans, Damien Abad, before the opening of the historic trial.