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Accused of corruption and influence peddling, the French justice must render its decision on Monday in the case of “tapping” involving the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, his lawyer Thierry Herzog and the former high magistrate Gilbert Azibert. In December, four years’ imprisonment, two of which had been required against the three defendants.
Nicolas Sarkozy will he be the second former president sentenced under the Ve Republic after Jacques Chirac? The Paris Criminal Court renders, Monday 1er March, his judgment in the so-called “wiretapping” case, after heavy requisitions in December.
The president of the 32e chamber, Christine Mée, must begin reading its decision from 1:30 p.m. and say whether the former head of state is found guilty of the offenses of corruption and influence peddling, which he contests.
On December 8, the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) demanded against the 66-year-old ex-president four years’ imprisonment, two of which were firm, considering that the presidential image had been “damaged” by this affair with “devastating effects” .
Whatever the court’s decision, it will be historic, more than nine years after Jacques Chirac was sentenced to two years in prison in the case of fictitious jobs in the city of Paris.
This decision will also be crucial for Nicolas Sarkozy, who faces a second trial on March 17, in the “Bygmalion” affair, relating to the costs of his 2012 presidential campaign.
Withdrawn from politics since 2016 but still very popular on the right, a year before the next presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy has firmly demanded at the helm to be “washed away from this infamy”.
The case of the “tapping” dates back to 2014. As part of the investigation into the suspicions of Libyan financing of his 2007 presidential campaign – which has since earned him a quadruple indictment – the judges discover that Nicolas Sarkozy is using a secret telephone line, opened under the alias of “Paul Bismuth”, to communicate with his lawyer Thierry Herzog.
A “corruption pact”, according to the prosecution
About ten of their conversations were transcribed. They prove according to the accusation that a “corruption pact” was concluded between Nicolas Sarkozy, his lawyer and the former high magistrate Gilbert Azibert.
For the prosecution, Gilbert Azibert transmitted, via Thierry Herzog, information covered by secrecy and tried to influence a cassation appeal formed by Nicolas Sarkozy, on the sidelines of the Bettencourt affair. In exchange, the latter agreed to support the candidacy of the magistrate, then Advocate General in a civil chamber of the highest jurisdiction, for a prestigious position in Monaco.
“He worked eh!” launches in particular Me Herzog in one of the exchanges read at the hearing. “Me, I make it go up”, affirms another day Nicolas Sarkozy.
The same sentence – four years’ imprisonment, two of which was firm – was required against the three defendants, matched for Mr.e Herzog with an application for a five-year professional ban.
These conversations were only “chatter between friends”, argued the defense lawyers, who ridiculed the “fantasies”, “assumptions” and “lawsuits” of the prosecution.
The defense pointed to a “desert of evidence”
Faced with a “desert of evidence”, they pleaded in unison for the release of the defendants, who risk ten years in prison and a million euros fine.
Asked by AFP, they did not wish to speak before the deliberation.
In court, they argued that in the end, Nicolas Sarkozy did not succeed before the Court of Cassation and that Gilbert Azibert never had a post in Monaco. According to the law, however, it is not necessary for the consideration to have been obtained, nor for the influence to be real, to characterize the offenses of corruption and influence peddling.
Throughout the trial, in a stormy atmosphere, the defense shelled a “trash” file, demanding the cancellation of the entire procedure, based according to it on “illegal” wiretapping because violating the secrecy of exchanges between a lawyer and his client.
The defendants’ lawyers also torpedoed a parallel preliminary investigation conducted by the PNF. Aiming to identify a possible mole having been able to inform Thierry Herzog in 2014 that the Bismuth line was “connected”, it led to their detailed telephone bills (“fadettes”) being peeled.
It was closed almost six years after it opened. Three magistrates of the financial prosecutor’s office, in particular his former head Eliane Houlette, have been targeted since September by an administrative investigation, the conclusions of which are imminent.
In this tense context, the current PNF boss, Jean-François Bohnert, came in person on the day of the indictment to defend the institution just created when the “tapping” affair broke out, and to assure: “No one here does not seek revenge on a former President of the Republic “.