Nicolas Sarkozy to look in courtroom accused of corruption in historic trial – Thebritishjournal

Nicolas Sarkozy to appear in court accused of corruption in historic trial

Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, will appear in court on Monday accused of influence peddling and corruption in an historic trial.

Mr Sarkozy is accused of attempting to bribe a top judge to secure leaked details of an inquiry into alleged electoral funding fraud.

It will be the first time that a former French president stands trial accused of corruption.

The conservative politician has been under investigation in a string of separate affairs over allegations of corruption and illicit financing of his presidential campaigns.

In the trial known as the “wiretapping affair” which starts on Monday, Mr Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog are accused of trying to bribe a senior judge to obtain secret information on an investigation against him.

In 2013, judges started listening in on Mr Sarkozy’s phone conversations as part of a probe into claims he received €50 million (£45m) in illegal funding for his 2007 presidential campaign from late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

They soon discovered he was using another, secret mobile phone under the false name of Paul Bismuth to communicate with his lawyer.

When they bugged the second device, prosecutors said they overheard the pair conspiring to give Gilbert Azibert, a magistrate from a top appeals court, a plum job in Monaco in return for information on another troublesome campaign financing case, the so-called Bettencourt affair.

Mr Azibert never got the posting in Monaco but he will also stand trial along with Mr Herzog. Both deny the charges 

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Mr Sarkozy denies all charges, and has complained of being unfairly targeted by authorities. “Is it normal that a former French president would be dragged through the mud as I have been for the past eight years?” he told BFMTV last week.

At the time of the secret calls, he faced allegations that he accepted illicit brown envelopes of cash from ailing L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.

He was cleared in 2013 of taking advantage of the elderly woman while she was too frail to understand what she was doing.

Mr Sarkozy has enjoyed resurgent popularity since retiring, with his memoirs becoming a summer bestseller.

Yet in the eight years since leaving the Elysée palace, the former president has been accused of knowingly overspending the legal limit for his 2012 presidential campaign and of receiving illegal funds for his campaigns and implicated in a scheme of kickbacks from arm sales to Pakistan.

Many of the cases have dragged on for years, slowed down by multiple appeals over technicalities in a failed attempt to get the charges dropped. In 2020 and 2021, many of the cases could go to trial.

Last month, Mr Sarkozy was charged with “criminal conspiracy” over the Libyan campaign funding, meaning he could face trial on four counts.

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In 2018 he was already charged with taking bribes, concealing the embezzlement of Libyan public funds and illegal campaign financing.

But in an extraordinary turn, French-Lebanese arms dealer Ziad Takieddine, who said he had personally delivered three suitcases stuffed with Libyan cash to Sarkozy’s former chief of staff, went back on his testimony last week.

Takieddine, the main witness in the case, told journalists there had been no Libyan funding, raising doubts over the possibility of a trial.

“The indictments made as part of this case are based on serious or consistent evidence which is not limited to the testimony of one person,” France’s top financial prosecutor, Jean François Bohnert, said in a statement.

The Bygmalion affair, which relates to claims of fake invoices devised to hide overspending on Mr Sarkozy’s failed 2012 re-election campaign, is due to go on trial on March 17. He denies the charges. 

Nicolas Sarkozy to appear in court accused of corruption in historic trial The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ The Telegraph.

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