Ex-president Nicholas Sarkozy [photo: BBC]
Nov, 23rd 2020 – Ex-president Nicholas Sarkozy has been accused of corruption and influence peddling and gone to trial for allegedly trying to bribe a magistrate with the aim of getting information about an investigation into his party finances. He was nicknamed the ‘bling-bling’ president as many in France saw it as his lavish tastes.
He led France from 2007 to 2012 and is the first ex-president in modern France to appear in the dock. The coronavirus crisis has disrupted court hearings as a key figure in the case, former senior judge Gilbert Azibert, 74, will not be able to appear in court. According to France Info News website, proceedings have been adjourned to Monday as Mr. Azibert has to undergo a medical check.
French magistrates have spent years investigating allegations of corruption which date back to Mr. Sarkozy’s election campaigns and his period in office. The case is also linked to a long running investigation into the right-wing politician’s suspected use of secret donations to fund his 2007 presidential campaign.
In 2011, Jacques Chirac, the former right-wing president, was given a two year suspended prison sentence for diverting public funds and abusing public trust. Offences which dated back to his time as mayor of Paris. He denied wrongdoing and failed to appear in court owing to ill health.
The prosecution alleges that Mr. Sarkozy and his then lawyer Thierry Herzog sought to bribe Gilbert Azibert with a prestigious job in Monaco in return for information about that investigation.
In France, it is known as the wiretapping case because phone calls between Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Herzog were in 2013-2014 tapped wher Mr. Sarkozy used the alias ‘Paul Bismuth’ as they discussed judge Azibert.
According to French media, Mr. Sarkozy was heard telling Mr. Herzog, “I’ll get him promoted, I’ll help him.” Denying any wrong doings, he pointed out that Judge Azibert did not get the Monaco position. In 2014, referring to his battle to clear his name, Mr. Sarkozy said, “Gilbert Azibert got nothing, I made no approach (on his behalf) and I’ve been rejected by the Court of Cassation.”
In October 2013, Magistrates dropped him from their investigations into the claims that he had accepted illicit payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his campaign in 2007.
Prosecutors suspect that Mr. Sarkozy and several associates received millions of euros of Libyan cash to fund his 2007 presidential campaign. At the time, the late Libyan dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi was in power.
Mr. Sarkozy wrote on Facebook saying, “My innocence is once again trampled on by a decision that presents no evidence at all of any illicit financing.”