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Sunday, February 25, 2024

France: Nicolas Sarkozy stands trial for bribery

Taped phone calls suggest the former French president wanted to offer a judge a job in Monaco in return for information on a case. Sarkozy any wrongdoing and believes the judiciary are waging a vendetta against him.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy will go on trial Monday over allegations of corruption and influence peddling.

The 65-year-old has faced several investigations since his 2012 election loss to Francois Hollande, only for the charges to be dropped before reaching court.

If convicted, Sarkozy could be jailed for up to 10 years and a maximum fine of €1 million ($1.2 million).

He denies any wrongdoing.

The centre-right politician, who was elected in 2007, tried for years to get this case thrown out.

He would become the first modern head of state in France to actually appear before judges.

His predecessor, the late Jacques Chirac, was convicted in 2011 for embezzling public funds during his time as a mayor of Paris. But he never took the stand due to health problems.

The charges against Sarkozy in detail
Prosecutors say Sarkozy tried to bribe a judge with the promise of a job in Monaco in return for information about a separate case of financial impropriety.

The magistrate he allegedly attempted to bribe, Gilbert Azibert (below), and Mr Sarkozy’s former lawyer Thierry Herzog also face trial.

The case for the prosecution rests on conversations between the two men.

“Mr Azibert never got any post in Monaco,” Sarkozy told BFM television this month — though under French law, just an offer or promise can constitute corruption.

Investigators taped their phone calls as they looked into claims that Sarkozy took illicit payments from the L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

They found that the former president and his legal representative used fake names to communicate with each other.

Further allegations against Sarkozy
Allegations of financial impropriety have circled around Sarkozy since he left office.

Prosecutors suspect that Sarkozy and several associates received millions of euros from Libya to fund his 2007 presidential campaign.

At that time, the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi was in power.

That inquiry is still underway, although Sarkozy’s main accuser, the French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, last month retracted his claim of delivering suitcases full of cash from the Libyan leader.

The long-running legal travails helped sink Sarkozy’s comeback bid for the 2017 presidential vote.

He is due back in court in March 2021 along with 13 other people over claims of campaign finance violations during his unsuccessful 2012 reelection bid.

Sarkozy, a lawyer by training, claims the French judiciary have been waging a vendetta against him as payback for his attempts to limit judges’ powers and telling them they were being too soft on delinquents.

He retired from politics in 2018, but the former president made a series of public appearances this summer to promote his new book.

Lines of fans queued at bookstores all over France to have him sign his latest memoirs, “The Time of Storms,” which topped best-seller lists for weeks.

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