Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is on trial Monday on charges of attempting to bribe a judge and influence peddling, one of many criminal investigations that threaten to cast a shameful veil over his decades-long political career.
Prosecutors allege Sarkozy offered to get a plum job in Monaco for Judge Gilbert Azibert in exchange for confidential information about an investigation into allegations that Sarkozy accepted illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.
Sarkozy, who ruled France from 2007 to 2012 and remained influential among conservatives, has denied any wrongdoing in all investigations against him and has fought vigorously to have the cases closed.
Since 2013, investigators had been listening to conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog as they investigated allegations of Libyan funding in Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign.
In doing so, they learned that Sarkozy and his lawyer were communicating using cell phones registered under false names. Sarkozy’s phone was recorded on a Paul Bismuth.
Prosecutors said the wiretaps revealed that Sarkozy and Herzog had repeatedly discussed contacting Azibert, a magistrate at the Court of Cassation, France’s highest court of appeal for criminal cases, and knowledgeable about the Bettencourt survey.
They allege that Sarkozy offered to help Azibert secure the post in Monaco in exchange for insider help.
“Mr. Azibert never got a job in Monaco,” Sarkozy told BFM TV this month.
Herzog and Azibert are both on trial with Sarkozy, accused of corruption and influence peddling. They are also accused of “breach of professional secrecy”. All three face up to 10 years in prison and heavy fines if found guilty.
Sarkozy and his center-right Republicans have claimed for years that the investigations against the former president are politically motivated.
Next March, Sarkozy is due to appear in court for violating campaign finance rules during his failed re-election in 2012. The so-called “Bygmalion” case centers on accusations that Sarkozy’s party worked with a friendly PR firm to hide the true cost of their campaign.
Prosecutors are still investigating allegations that former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi supplied 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 of this month.
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