The trial of a former president, physically present in court: this is a first in France. Nicolas Sarkozy is to be tried from Monday for corruption in the wiretapping affair, alongside his lawyer and friend Thierry Herzog and the former high magistrate at the Court of Cassation Gilbert Azibert.
After the rejection of several appeals, the Court of Cassation definitively validated in June 2019 the dismissal of the three men for correctional purposes. Their trial is scheduled to take place from November 23 to December 10.
What do we blame them for?
To understand everything, we have to go back to 2013, when the judges decide to wiretap the former president as part of an investigation into possible Libyan financing of the 2007 presidential campaign.
Nicolas Sarkozy uses a secret cell phone with a prepaid card and a pseudonym, Paul Bismuth, to communicate with his lawyer. Together, they evoke the decision that the Court of Cassation must soon take concerning the agendas of the former president, seized in the context of the Bettencourt case, where the ex-president obtained a dismissal.
The Court of Cassation must determine if these agendas can be used in other cases which involve Nicolas Sarkozy. The eavesdropping led the judges to suspect the former president and his lawyer of wanting to influence this procedure, by bringing in the first Advocate General at the Court of Cassation Gilbert Azibert, in exchange for obtaining a post at the Council of State in Monaco for the latter.
Conversations at the heart of the matter
On January 30, 2014, on his unofficial line called “Bismuth”, Me Herzog explains to Nicolas Sarkozy the position of the general prosecutor’s office of the Court of Cassation, which promises to cancel the seizure of the agendas of the former Head of State in the Bettencourt case, investigated in Bordeaux and in which he obtained a dismissal.
The lawyer reports an exchange he had with “Gilbert”, magistrate at the Court but who does not intervene in this case. It indicates that the latter “had access“to another document, however confidential: “the opinion” of the rapporteur advisor.
On February 5, Me Herzog reiterates the optimism of Gilbert Azibert, who was to meet another judge of the Court “to explain to him what it would take”. “Me, I bring it up,” said Nicolas Sarkozy. His lawyer evokes the magistrate’s interest for a post at the Council of State in Monaco. “I will help her“, insists the ex-president. According to Me Herzog, Gilbert Azibert would have told him that he did not dare to ask”a helping hand“. “I said to him: Are you kidding, with what you do …“
On February 23, when the former president is due to visit the Principality, Me Herzog reminds him “to say a word for Gilbert” if the “the occasion”. Nicolas Sarkozy nods. He is in the favorites but “if you lend a hand it will always be better“, said the lawyer the next day. Nicolas Sarkozy declares that he will”approach“within two days.
On February 25, Nicolas Sarkozy repeats that he will “approach“. The following day, however, he assures on his official line that he did not finally speak about the magistrate to the Minister of State of the” Rock “:”it bothers me to ask for something when I don’t know very well“.
For investigators, this turnaround can be explained by the fact that the two men have just learned that their unofficial phones are also tapped, a thesis that Nicolas Sarkozy refutes.
On March 3, during a call between Me Herzog and Gilbert Azibert, the lawyer announced that “the approach in Monaco has been made “. “I will tell you in person” the “last episode“, he adds.”We had to say some things on the phone“, he continues,”because we learned some things“.
How does Nicolas Sakorzy defend himself?
In its indictment, the national financial prosecutor’s office had compared the methods of Nicolas Sarkozy to those of “a seasoned offender “. The latter refutes these accusations and affirms that he has not asked the Monegasque authorities for any favors for Gilbert Azibert.
But in their dismissal order, the judges of the national financial prosecutor’s office believe that even if Gilbert Azibert did not ultimately get the job, “solicitation or acceptance alone is sufficient”.
Magistrates from the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) have for their part been targeted since September 18, 2020 by an administrative investigation, concerning in particular the examination of the detailed telephone bills of tenors of the bar, when they had sought, in vain, a possible ” mole “having warned Nicolas Sarkozy that he was tapped.
What risk Nicolas Sarkozy?
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who denounces a political instrumentalisation of justice, faces a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1 million euros, if he is found guilty of active corruption and trafficking active influence.
But the ex-president, now retired from politics, has not finished. Nicolas Sarkozy was indicted in February 2016 for “illegal campaign financing“, that of the 2012 presidential election, as part of the Bygmalion affair. But he is not blamed for the system of false invoices at the heart of the fraud.
Nicolas Sarkozy was also indicted in the case of the possible Libyan financing of his 2007 presidential campaign.
Judges have been investigating since April 2013 accusations of financing by Libya of Nicoals Sarkozy’s victorious presidential campaign in 2007, formulated through Ziad Takieddine and former Libyan dignitaries.
On November 11, 2020, in a spectacular about-face, the latter withdrew his charges. The PNF retorted that the charges against the former president “are not limited to statements“of the intermediary.
Nicolas Sarkozy was indicted on March 21, 2018 for “passive corruption, illegal financing of election campaigns and concealment of Libyan public funds“, then October 12, 2020 for”conspiracy”.