The trial of former French President Sarkozy on charges of corruption and abuse of influence
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy will appear in court on Thursday, charged with attempting to bribe a judge and abuse of power.
He will be the first former president in modern France to appear in the dock.
Sarkozy led France from 2007 to 2012.
Sarkozy will represent Thursday in a corruption case known as the “wiretapping case”, alongside his lawyer and a former senior judge
Although former President Jacques Chirac was tried and sentenced in 2011 to two years in prison for embezzlement of public funds through fake jobs in the Paris municipality, he did not appear before judges because of his health condition, which makes Sarkozy the first French president to appear before judges on corruption charges.
Sarkozy, 65, said that he is going to court in a “combat” spirit, as part of this unprecedented trial, which will also be tried by his lawyer, Thierry Ertzug, and retired judge Gilbert Aziber.
The former president, who is defending his innocence, considers this case a “scandal that will go down in history.”
Sarkozy, who withdrew from politics after losing the primaries in late 2016, faces a possible 10-year prison sentence and a million euros fine on charges of corruption and abuse of influence. He is also being tried, like the other two men, for violating professional secrecy.
This so-called “wiretapping” case originates from another court file threatening Sarkozy, which is the suspicion that he got Libyan funding for his presidential campaign in 2007.
In this context, the judges decided in September 2013 to subject the former president to wiretapping and discovered at the beginning of 2014 that he was using a secret line, under the pseudonym “Paul Bismuth”, to communicate with his lawyer, Thierry Erzog.
According to the Public Prosecution, some of their conversations revealed the existence of efforts to agree to carry out corruption operations, as Sarkozy was seeking, through his lawyer, to help Judge Aziber to appoint him to a position in Monaco, which he did not ultimately.
This judge provided information, supposed to be confidential, about a lawsuit that Sarkozy filed before the Court of Cessation on the sidelines of another file (Betancourt file) and tried to influence his colleagues on this issue.
After the court decided that there was no legal basis for his trial in the Betancourt at the end of 2013, Sarkozy submitted of Cessation a request to cancel the confiscation of his presidential records, which could have interested the judiciary in other cases related to him.
In his conversations with his attorney, which is central to the case, the President pledges to intervene in favor of Judge Aziber, saying, “I will support him.”
Shortly thereafter, Sarkozy tells his lawyer he has backed away from launching proceedings with the Monaco authorities. The investigators believe that this sudden change may have arisen from the two men’s discovery that their official lines are being monitored.
In strongly worded arguments in October 2017, the Financial Prosecutor’s Office likened Sarkozy’s methods to that of a “seasoned criminal.”
The three defendants deny the existence of any “agreement to carry out corruption operations.”
The former president since 2014 asserts that “Aziber got nothing, I did not submit the request, and the Court of Cassation rejected my requests,” regarding the presidential notes.
He reiterated in an interview with the French “BFMTV” station, “I will defend myself before the court, because I have always fulfilled my obligations,” adding, “I am not corrupt.”
Sarkozy has repeatedly denounced the use of the judiciary for political ends and has lodged several appeals, but his attempts were unsuccessful.
That the highest judicial authority ratified the lawfulness of wiretapping in March 2016 was a major defeat for Sarkozy, who considered copying the contents of a lawyer-client’s calls illegal. This issue will arise again during the trial.
Nicolas Sarkozy awaits another trial in the spring in the “Pygmalion” case over the costs of his 2012 campaign that he lost to François Hollande.