French court to rule in Sarkozy wiretapping corruption case

PARIS: A French court of appeals will on Wednesday give its verdict in one of several corruption and illegal campaign financing cases involving ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The 68-year-old, who served one term from 2007 to 2012, has been embroiled in legal troubles ever since leaving office.

In March 2021, he was sentenced to three years in prison — two of them suspended and one at home with an electronic bracelet — for corruption and influence peddling through a secret telephone line that was discovered through wiretapping.

The court found that Sarkozy and his former lawyer, Thierry Herzog, had formed a “corruption pact” with a judge, Gilbert Azibert, to obtain and share information about a legal investigation.

Investigators had wiretapped Sarkozy’s two official phone lines. They discovered that he had a third unofficial one taken out in 2014 under the name “Paul Bismuth”, through which he communicated with Herzog.

The contents of these phone calls led to the 2021 corruption verdict.

The former leader contested the accusations and immediately appealed against his conviction.

On the first day of the appeals hearing in December last year, he said he had “never corrupted anybody”.

His conversations with Herzog have now been played in court for the first time and will be central in determining Wednesday’s ruling.

The prosecutor’s office has requested that Sarkozy, Herzog and Azibert each be handed a three-year suspended sentence.

They have also asked for Sarkozy and Azibert, 76, to be suspended from public office and Herzog, 67, to be banned from practising law, each for five years.

Two other cases

The so-called Bismuth case is just one of several pursuing the man dubbed the “hyper-president” while in office.

Sarkozy will be retried on appeal from November 2023 in the so-called Bygmalion case, which saw him sentenced to one year in prison at first instance.

The prosecution accused Sarkozy’s team of spending nearly double the legal limit on his lavish 2012 re-election campaign, using false billing from a public relations firm called Bygmalion. He has denied any wrongdoing.

And French prosecutors on Thursday demanded he face a new trial over alleged Libyan financing of his 2007 election campaign.

France’s financial crimes prosecutors said Sarkozy and 12 others should face trial over accusations they sought millions of euros in financing from the regime of then Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi for his ultimately victorious campaign.

Sarkozy is accused of corruption, illegal campaign financing and concealing the embezzlement of public funds but has always rejected all the charges.

Investigating magistrates are to have the last word on whether or not that trial goes ahead.

Despite his legal problems, Sarkozy still enjoys considerable influence and popularity on the right of French politics and has the ear of incumbent President Emmanuel Macron.

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