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the trials and tribulations of Nicolas Sarkozy

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made headlines promoting his latest memoir. But storm clouds are gathering on the horizon as cases involving campaign overspending, alleged funding from Libya and a wiretapping scandal reach the courts. RFI returns to the legal battles of the pugnacious politician.

Sarkozy, who is currently promoting his latest book “The time of fighting” (“Time to fight”), will be judged in November on appeal in the so-called Bygmalion affair, involving questionable campaign revenue.

In early 2025, the former president will face prosecutors on suspicion that the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi helped finance his 2007 presidential campaign.

He is also appealing a conviction for bribery and influence peddling in connection with secret telephone conversations and alleged attempts to influence a judge.

Earlier this month, Sarkozy denounced what he called “total harassment” on French television.

“I’m fighting, I’m not giving up,” said the 68-year-old former president.

The Bygmalion affair

Bygmalion’s case was brought to court against Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party which spent almost double the 20 million euros allowed under electoral law on lavish re-election campaign rallies in 2012.

“Basically, where there is a ceiling for political campaigns, they have to respect that ceiling and if you exceed it, you are wrong,” says Brigitte Adès, senior journalist at the foreign affairs journal. International Politics.

“Because they did not want to exceed the ceiling, they actually created invoices (receipts) with this Bygmalion, which was a kind of company supposed to be paid by the UMP,” she explains.

The UMP president at the time, Jean-François Copé, knew the company’s owners, Adès says, and making them pay the bills was “a way of extending or increasing the money to finance the campaign”.

Nobody claims that Sarkozy claimed the 20 million euros for himself, she emphasizes: “It was not him who took them and put them in his pocket.”

According to the political commentator, candidates for high office are often so busy that they don’t care where the money comes from. “It’s of course a big mistake. They should be very, very careful,” says Adès.

“But they always did that so they could spend a little more.”

The connection with Libya

Bygmalion aside, Sarkozy could also soon be investigated in another case: he is suspected of having conspired to extract money from Gaddafi in Libya in order to illegally finance his successful bid for the presidency in 2007.

Sarkozy was vehement in his defense. “I am… accused of illegal financing by Gaddafi without them being able to say to what extent after ten years of investigation,” he recently declared on French television.

“How much did Gaddafi finance? 100,000, 2 million, 10 million?”

So where do the allegations that Sarkozy took money from Gaddafi come from?

The investigation was opened in 2013 after a French-Lebanese businessman claimed he was involved in the transfer of funds from a Gaddafi associate to Sarkozy’s campaign manager.

Prosecutors claimed Sarkozy asked the Libyan strongman for money – “but I don’t think he actually received anything because they haven’t been able to prove that the money has been sent or received. , notes Adès.

Some claim that Sarkozy received 50 million euros, others say 10 million euros. “We don’t know and nothing happened,” Adès said.

“The fact is that even if he asked…he shouldn’t ask a foreign leader for money. But I can tell you that I know a lot of presidents who have done it in the past,” he said. declared the commentator to RFI.

We do not know exactly what benefit Gaddafi could have derived from his support for Sarkozy’s electoral campaign.

The bismuth affair

Sarkozy was sentenced on appeal to three years in prison, two of which were suspended, for the telephone tapping affair – also known as the Bismuth affair.

This is a secret telephone line discovered when Sarkozy’s two official telephone lines were tapped, withdrawn in 2014 under the name of Paul Bismuth.

Prosecutors accused Sarkozy of using the unofficial line to communicate with his lawyer about a legal investigation, which they were also discussing surreptitiously with a judge.

Recorded conversations revealed that Sarkozy had suggested that a certain magistrate could be appointed to a good position in Monaco in exchange for “being receptive”, which the court concluded constituted “active corruption of a magistrate” ​​and to “active influence peddling involving a person holding public interests”. authority”.

Sarkozy has appealed this conviction to the French Supreme Court and the former president, himself a lawyer, is ready to fight.

“I will go all the way, to the European Court of Human Rights,” he said.

Adès believes that the Bismuth affair is exaggerated.

“In a way, Sarkozy was saying, ‘What if we did this for this man because maybe he could be accommodating…’ It wasn’t the right thing to say. But anyway, “It never came to fruition because nothing happened. He (the magistrate) never got the job. Nothing happened,” she said.

“Attacking the Accuser”

Faced with Sarkozy’s vigorous denials and allegations of persecution by the French justice system, prosecutors fought back.

“We know that the main strategy is to attack the accuser,” national financial prosecutor Jean-François Bohnert said this week, declaring that his prosecution would not be intimidated.

Whatever the final verdict, Sarkozy knows how to use the light to make his book known. But serious issues are at stake.

Former French Prime Minister François Fillon was sentenced to four years in prison, three of which were suspended, for creating a phantom job and creating a payroll in his office for his wife.

Penelope Fillon was given a two-year suspended prison sentence, while the couple were also fined 375,000 euros.

Should Sarkozy be afraid of meeting a similar fate?

“I don’t think Sarkozy is afraid of much,” insists Adès.

There is little that is likely to anger the grizzled politician, who knows the rules of the French justice system.


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