Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy Faces Trial in Corruption Case

Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) - COSP8. Photo: UNODC (Representational Image)
Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) – COSP8. Photo: UNODC (Representational Image)

By RMN News Service

Under allegations of corruption and bribery, a former French president Nicolas Sarkozy will face trial on Monday (November 23). He is accused of an attempt to bribe a judge in order to influence court decision in one of the several criminal investigations.

Prosecutors allege that Sarkozy offered to arrange a plum job in Monaco for judge Gilbert Azibert in a quid pro quo deal. The former president had allegedly sought confidential information from the judge about an inquiry into his alleged acceptance of illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.

Sarkozy, who led France from 2007-2012, has denied any wrongdoing in all the investigations against him and fought legal battles to get the cases against him dismissed. Sarkozy’s centre-right political outfit Les Republicains has maintained that the investigations against the former president are politically motivated.

According to reports, investigators had from 2013 been wiretapping conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog as they probed allegations of Libyan financing in Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign.

The investigators claim that Sarkozy and his lawyer were communicating using mobile phones registered under false names. Sarkozy’s phone was registered to a Paul Bismuth.

Reports also reveal that Sarkozy and Herzog had repeatedly discussed communications with judge Azibert, a magistrate at the Cour de Cassation (France’s top appeals court for criminal cases), who had sufficient knowledge of the Bettencourt inquiry against Sarkozy.

In March next year, Sarkozy is also expected to face prosecution for his alleged violation of campaign financing rules during his failed 2012 re-election bid. Known as the “Bygmalion” affair case, it alleges that Sarkozy’s party worked with a complicit public relations firm to hide the true cost of his campaign.

While political campaigns in France have spending limits, it is alleged that the firm Bygmalion invoiced Sarkozy’s party rather than the campaign, allowing the UMP (now called Les Républicains) to spend almost double the amount permitted.

Meanwhile, BBC has quoted France Info news website which suggests that the proceedings will be adjourned on Monday (November 23) because judge Azibert, 74, has to undergo a medical check. The trial is set to run until December 10.

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Rakesh Raman