A Paris court on Monday found former French President Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and trading in influence. This was announced by the BFM TV channel from the building of the Parisian Palace of Justice.
Sarkozy, who led the country from 2007-2012, was sentenced to three years in prison, of which one is a real prison term. In the history of France, this is the second case of the ex-president being brought to trial (the first was Jacques Chirac in 2011) and the first when the former head of state was accused of corruption.
Sarkozy is accused of trying to obtain information from the judge of the Court of Cassation Gilbert Azibert about the progress of another investigation through the mediation of his lawyer Thierry Erzog in early 2014. It concerned the possible illegal financing of the 2007 Sarkozy presidential campaign by the owner of the French company L’Oreal, Liliane Bettencourt (in 2013, the charges in this case were dropped).
The investigation established that Sarkozy through Erzog promised Aziber in exchange for confidential information assistance in obtaining a post in Monaco. The accusation is based on the tapes of intercepted telephone conversations, which Sarkozy conducted on mobile phones registered under false names.
Investigators received permission to wiretap the ex-president’s conversations in the course of another trial – the case started in 2013 on Muammar Gaddafi’s possible participation in financing Sarkozy’s election campaign in 2007. On October 12, 2020, Sarkozy was charged with creating a criminal community, and the process is currently ongoing.
The trial, dubbed the “wiretapping case” in the media, began on November 23, 2020. In addition to Sarkozy, Thierry Erzog and Gilbert Azibert, who are accused of divulging professional secrets, are also involved in the case. The hearings ended on December 10 with a speech by the defendants’ lawyers. They stated that procedural violations had been committed during the investigation, in particular when collecting evidence.
The National Financial Prosecutor’s Office demanded four years of imprisonment for the ex-president (two of them were suspended) and a similar penalty for Erzog and Aziber.
During the trial, Sarkozy categorically denied guilt. His lawyers demanded that all charges be dropped, arguing that the wiretapping was carried out unlawfully and was a violation of the secrecy of the investigation, since it was about negotiations between the lawyer and the client. At the same time, they referred to the decision of the Council of Europe prohibiting such interception of lawyers’ negotiations. The court on Monday rejected the claim.
According to lawyer Jacqueline Laffon, the investigation is built on “false grounds … in the absence of evidence we are immersed in a sea of hypotheses and guesses, conjectures and false interpretations.” The ex-president himself categorically denies the accusations, stating that “he never committed any actions that contradict the principles of the rule of law and the Republic.” He called the trial “a scandal that will remain in the history of the country.”