Former French president to spend a year behind bars for bribing a judge
Nicolas Sarkozy found guilty of corruption
A Paris court has found the former French president guilty of corruption and abuse of office. The 66-year-old politician was sentenced to a total of three years in prison. He received two of them on probation. The prosecutor’s office demanded four years of imprisonment for the ex-president (two real sentences, two suspended ones).
The judge at the verdict said that Sarkozy “knew that he was doing wrong.” The ex-president denies all the charges and considers them to be harassment by political opponents. His lawyer, Jacqueline Laffont, pointed out that the investigation is based on “false grounds”, and people are “immersed in a sea of hypotheses and guesses, conjectures” in the absence of evidence.
Together with the former head of state, his lawyer Thierry Herzog and former judge of the Court of Cassation Gilbert Azibert were involved in the case. Both of them were found guilty of disclosing professional secrets. They received similar sentences: two years of probation and one year of actual imprisonment. Herzog was also banned from practicing law for five years.
The politician was accused of receiving money from Gaddafi and bribing a judge
The corruption case was a continuation of the story of illegal campaign financing: initially, investigators suspected that Sarkozy had exceeded the funding limit for his presidential campaigns in 2007 and 2012. In particular, he was accused of accepting illegal donations from the co-owner of the French company L’Oreal, Liliane Bettencourt, and the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. It was believed that from the first he received 150 thousand euros, and from the second to 50 million. This is despite the fact that in France there is a limit on such donations of 4,6 thousand euros per person. However, the charges for the Bettencourt episode fell apart in court, and the charges for the Gaddafi episode were withdrawn.
However, as part of the investigation into the financing of the 2007 election campaign, the investigators received permission to listen to the conversations of Sarkozy and Herzog. At the same time, it became known that some conversations were conducted on phones registered under fictitious names. The intercepted recordings formed the basis of a new accusation of trying to influence the course of the Bettencourt donation case.
Proceedings in the case began in the fall of 2020. According to the investigation, Sarkozy, through his lawyer Erzog, promised Judge Aziberu a position and a “warm place” in Monaco. In exchange, he was supposed to provide confidential information about the Bettencourt donation investigation.
The ex-President has a chance to avoid a prison sentence
Despite the sentence with a real term, Sarkozy has a chance to avoid a prison sentence, writes AFP. Under French law, citizens who have been given less than two years in prison can replace their detention with house arrest but are required to wear an electronic bracelet. The issue of changing the form of punishment is decided after considering all possible appeals in the case. The judge makes the corresponding decision either after the petition of the convicted person or on his own initiative.
In the near future, Sarkozy is waiting for another trial
A new hearing is also scheduled for March. The former president and his associates will face charges of illegal financing of the 2012 election campaign. Sarkozy is suspected of involvement in fraud: he allegedly managed to almost double the legal spending limit on the campaign as a whole. It is worth noting that he lost the 2012 election.
In addition, in January it became known that the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office of France opened another case against Sarkozy. The former president was suspected of illegally promoting the interests of a company from Russia. We are talking about a contract for 3 million euros, which he signed with the Russian insurance company “RESO-Garantia”. Its shareholder, the French association Axa, is a major client of the law firm Realize, founded by Sarkozy. The investigation suggests that in fact, he did not provide consulting services, but “traded influence”, lobbying the interests of Russian oligarchs with the help of his connections.