French court keeps three-year sentence for ex-president Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced on appeal to three years in prison, including one year for corruption and influence peddling in the “wiretapping” case.

Photo: AFP

The former president of France had been sentenced to the same penalty in the first instance. Nicolas Sarkozy was also deprived of his civic rights for three years.

It’s an unprecedented punishment for a former president in France. Nicolas Sarkozy is deprived of his civic rights for three years, which makes him ineligible. Therefore, Sarkozy will be not able to return to politics.

His lawyers immediately announced that he would appeal to the Supreme Court. As the Paris Court of Appeal did not include a request for provisional execution of the sentence, the execution of this sentence is suspended while the appeal is examined. As reported by FranceInfo, Mr Sarkozy will not wear an electronic bracelet for the time being, and his civil rights will not be suspended during this appeal.

The two co-defendants of the ex-president, his lawyer Thierry Herzog and the former high magistrate Gilbert Azibert have been sentenced to the same penalty. The criminal lawyer Thierry Herzog is also banned from practising his profession for three years.

The case of suspected Libyan financing of Sarcozy’s 2007 presidential campaign is indirectly at the origin of the “wiretapping” case, also known as “Bismuth”. At the end of 2013, the investigating judges in charge of the investigation into the suspicions of Libyan corruption decided to connect to the two lines of Nicolas Sarkozy. They then discovered the existence of a third line, unofficial.

Purchased on January 11, 2014, under the identity of “Paul Bismuth”, it is dedicated to the exchanges between the ex-president and his lawyer and long-time friend, Thierry Herzog.

The former French president played the role of the fictional Paul Bismuth whenever he made a call on a secret cell phone, which was operated by a pre-paid card. When the phone rang, he had no fear since the only person who knew his number and used a “clandestine” cell phone was his defence attorney, Mr Herzog.

Their telephone conversations, broadcast for the first time during the second trial in December, constitute the heart of the case and the basis of the prosecution.

For the prosecution, the wiretaps reveal a pact of corruption with Gilbert Azibert, then attorney general at the Court of Cassation, who is accused of having worked behind the scenes to influence an appeal filed by Nicolas Sarkozy in the Bettencourt affair in exchange for a “helping hand” for an honorary position in Monaco.

Sarkozy was also implicated in a scandal around probable Russian influence. He was invited by the leading sovereign wealth fund of the Russian state to attend a party in late 2018. After the event, Nicolas Sarkozy praised the merits of Russian president Vladimir Putin. A few weeks apart, he would have received 300,000 euros from a company potentially linked to this fund, reveals Mediapart.

Did the Kremlin pay Nicolas Sarkozy to praise the merits of Putin during a conference? This is the question asked by the Mediapart journalists. Still, it’s up to the prosecutors to investigate.

In 2018, many politicians in France felt comfortable having ties with Putin; for some of them, the stance has changed since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

But in 2018, Putin was already the autocrat who annexed Crimea, supported the armed groups in Donbas, and was suspected of annihilating opponents, such as Boris Nemstov (who was murdered a few steps from the Kremlin), and sent his air force to destroy Aleppo in Syria, killing thousands of civilians, the authors of the report underlined.

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