Posted November 21, 2020 9:28 am by

Crunch time for France’s Sarkozy as graft trial looms

Paris, France, Nov 21 – Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy goes on trial Monday on charges of trying to bribe a judge, in what could be a humiliating postscript to a political career tainted by a litany of legal investigations.

Though he is not the first modern head of state in the dock — his predecessor and political mentor Jacques Chirac was convicted of embezzlement — Sarkozy is the first to face corruption charges.

He fought furiously over the past six years to have the case thrown out, and has denounced “a scandal that will go down in history”.

“I am not a crook,” the 65-year-old, whose combative style has made him one of France’s most popular rightwing politicians, told BFM TV this month.

Prosecutors say Sarkozy promised the judge a plush job in Monaco in exchange for inside information on an inquiry into claims that Sarkozy accepted illicit payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.

Their case rests in large part on wiretaps of phone conversations between Sarkozy and his longtime lawyer Thierry Herzog, which judges authorised as prosecutors also looked into suspected Libyan financing of Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign.

That inquiry is still underway, though Sarkozy caught a break this month when his main accuser, the French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, suddenly retracted his claim of delivering millions of euros in cash from Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Sarkozy and Herzog have assailed the taps on their phones as a breach of client-attorney privilege, but in 2016 a top court upheld their use as evidence.

Nicolas Sarkozy risks up to 10 years in prison on charges of bribery and influence peddling. © AFP/File / Thomas SAMSON

Charged with bribery and influence peddling, Sarkozy risks a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of one million euros ($1.2 million).

Herzog, a leading member of the Paris bar, faces the same charges as well as violation of professional secrecy. The trial is expected to last three weeks.

– ‘A boost’ –

Investigators discovered that Sarkozy used an alias — Paul Bismuth — to buy a private phone for conversing secretly with his lawyer.

On around a dozen occasions, they discussed reaching out to a top French judge, Gilbert Azibert, a general counsel at the Cour de Cassation, France’s top appeals court for criminal and civil cases.

Prosecutors say Azibert, who is also on trial, was tasked with trying to obtain information from the Cour de Cassation lawyer in charge Read More…Crunch time for France’s Sarkozy as graft trial looms  Crunch time for France’s Sarkozy as graft trial looms  Crunch time for France’s Sarkozy as graft trial looms  Crunch time for France’s Sarkozy as graft trial looms