An Heiress, A Judge And A Job – France’s Sarkozy Goes On Trial For Corruption

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy stands trial Monday on charges of attempting to bribe a judge and influence peddling, one of several criminal investigations that threaten to throw an ignominious cloak over his decades-long political career.

Prosecutors allege that Sarkozy offered to secure an excellent job in Monaco for Judge Gilbert Azibert in exchange for confidential information about an investigation into allegations that Sarkozy had accepted illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, for his 2007 presidential campaign.

Sarkozy, who led France from 2007 to 2012 and has maintained his influence among conservatives, has denied any wrongdoing in all investigations against him and vigorously fought to have the cases thrown out.

Since 2013, investigators had been listening in on phone conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog as they delved into allegations of Libyan funding in Sarkozy’s campaign in 2007.

As they did so, they learned that Sarkozy and his lawyer were communicating using mobile phones registered under false names. Sarkozy’s phone was registered to Paul Bismuth.

Prosecutors have said wiretaps revealed that Sarkozy and Herzog had discussed on multiple occasions contacting Azibert, a magistrate at the Cour de Cassation, France’s top appeals court for criminal cases, and knowledgeable about Bettencourt’s investigation. .

They allege that Sarkozy offered to help Azibert get the job in Monaco in exchange for domestic help.

“Mr. Azibert never got the job in Monaco,” Sarkozy told BFM TV this month.

Herzog and Azibert are on trial with Sarkozy, accused of corruption and influence peddling. They are also accused of “violating professional secrecy”. All three face up to 10 years in prison and heavy fines if found guilty.

Sarkozy and his center-right Les Republicains party have said for years that the investigations against the former president are politically motivated.

Sarkozy is due to appear in court next March on allegations of violating campaign finance rules during his failed re-election bid in 2012. The so-called “Bygmalion” case focuses on allegations that Sarkozy’s party worked with a friendly PR firm to hide the true cost of your campaign.

Prosecutors are still investigating claims that former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi provided Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign with millions of euros shipped to Paris in suitcases, allegations Sarkozy denies. His main accuser, a Franco-Lebanese businessman, withdrew his account of the events this month.

REUTERS