France: judgment time for Sarkozy in the “tapping” affair

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PARIS | Nicolas Sarkozy will he be the second former French president sentenced under the Ve Republic after Jacques Chirac? The Paris Criminal Court renders its judgment on Monday in the so-called “tapping” case, after heavy requisitions in December.

The court must begin reading its decision from 12:30 GMT (7:00 in Quebec) and say whether the former head of state is convicted of the offenses of corruption and influence peddling, which he disputes.

On December 8, the prosecution had requested against the ex-president, aged 66, four years’ imprisonment, two of which were firm, considering that the presidential image had been “damaged” by this case 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 a case of fictitious jobs in the city of Paris, of which he had been the mayor.

The decision will also be crucial for Nicolas Sarkozy, who faces from March 17 a second trial 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Withdrawn from politics since 2016, but still very popular on the right, a year before the next presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy firmly demanded at the helm to be “washed away from this infamy”.

“I bring it up”

The case of “eavesdropping” dates back to 2014. At that time, the use of WhatsApp and other encrypted messaging was not widespread, highlighted the former head of state.

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.

About ten of their conversations were transcribed. They prove, according to the prosecution, that a “corruption pact” was concluded between Nicolas Sarkozy, his lawyer and a 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 in the context of another case. In exchange, the latter agreed to support the magistrate’s candidacy for a prestigious post in Monaco.

“He worked eh!” notably launches Me Herzog in one of the exchanges read at the hearing.

“Me, I bring it up,” said Nicolas Sarkozy another day.

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”, “hypotheses” and “lawsuits” of the prosecution.

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 job in Monaco. According to the law, however, it is not necessary that the consideration has been obtained nor that the influence 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 prosecution. 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 being examined.

It was dismissed almost six years after it opened. Three magistrates of the financial prosecutor’s office, in particular his former head Éliane Houlette, have been targeted since September by an administrative investigation, the conclusions of which are imminent.

In this tense context, the current boss of the national financial prosecutor’s office, Jean-François Bohnert, had come in person on the day of the indictment to defend the institution just created when the “tapping” affair broke out, and to ensure: ” No one here is seeking revenge on a former President of the Republic ”.