Politics, Europe

France: Sarkozy on trial facing corruption charges

Former French president charged with bribing judge, faces 10 years in prison if convicted

Cindi Cook   | 23.11.2020
France: Sarkozy on trial facing corruption charges Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrives at the court for the trial on corruption charges in Paris, France on November 23, 2020. ( Julien Mattia - Anadolu Agency )

PARIS 

Former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, went on trial on Monday to face corruption charges, including allegedly bribing an appeals court judge in exchange for information in a probe into his 2007’s race for the presidency.

In 2013, Sarkozy had been facing an undercover probe by investigators, in part by wiretap, for allegedly accepting millions of dollars from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for his 2007 presidential campaign.

According to France Info news, proceedings may be adjourned today due to judge Gilbert Azibert has to undergo a medical check.

In the midst of the 2013 probe, it was discovered by investigators that Sarkozy was using a second phone that had been registered to his friend Paul Bismuth to hold discussions with his lawyer Thierry Herzog. With Herzog's help, Sarkozy is said to have attempted to bribe Senior Appeals Court Magistrate, Judge Gilbert Azibert, in an attempt to obtain information from Azibert over a different probe, one that claimed Sarkozy had accepted illicit payments from L'Oreal heiress Lilian Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential run.

In exchange for the information, it is alleged that Sarkozy would garner a prestigious job in Monaco for the judge.

The bribery charges solidify three separate sets of accusations the former French president has battled in court of late, the others being claims of campaign financing in his 2012 presidential bid, and multiple charges of embezzlement, influence peddling, and illegal financing in his 2007 presidential bid, the latter for which Sarkozy was indicted in mid-October.

Both Sarkozy and Herzog decried that wiretapping was a violation of their client-attorney privilege although in 2016 its use in the investigation was sanctioned as evidence by the top court. Sarkozy has maintained his innocence throughout, professing that no position for the judge was ever obtained. Prosecutors say the intent alone is sufficient to bring about a conviction. The legal proceedings will last until Dec. 10.

The trial also marks the first time ever a former French president has stood trial for corruption. Sarkozy faces a €1.2 million ($1.42 million) fine and 10 years in prison if convicted.

Additionally, Herzog and Azibert are facing charges of their own of violating professional secrecy in the affair.

Sarkozy has also decried that the legal proceedings in which he has been caught for the past seven years clipped his chances in both 2012 and 2017 when he ran for re-election as well.

The trial is set to run until Dec. 10.


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