SARKOZY. The deliberation of the trial of Nicolas Sarkozy in an alleged corruption case is delivered this Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Will the former president go to prison?
Will Nicolas Sarkozy again be the first President of the Republic to be sentenced to a prison term? The Paris Court of Appeal will render, this Wednesday, its deliberation in the so-called “wiretapping” case, this file in which the former head of state is suspected of having used his power to obtain information on a judicial investigation against him in exchange for a popular position for the magistrate who informed him. In this case, the former strongman of the right had been sentenced to three years in prison, including one firm, at first instance. The appeal being suspensive and the prison sentence also suitable for conversion, Nicolas Sarkozy had not found himself behind bars. And this time?
The deliberation of the Paris Court of Appeal has been expected since mid-December. During this new trial, which lasted ten days, the one who was mayor of Neuilly, minister on several occasions and tenant of the Elysée had said he wanted to “defend his flouted honor”, refuting any corruption. If this case appears to be “a matter of unprecedented gravity” in the eyes of the prosecution, the requisitions were less heavy than at first instance.
Thus, Nicolas Sarkozy incurs, at this stage, a three-year suspended prison sentence. No requisition for a firm prison has been made and it seems unlikely that the sentence pronounced will be harsher than that required. The former President of the Republic, if found guilty, will therefore not go to prison. On the other hand, he could be deprived of his civic rights (voting and standing for elections mainly). Similar requisitions were made against the two other defendants, Gilbert Azibert, the magistrate who was allegedly the informant, and Thierry Herzog, Nicolas Sarkozy’s lawyer.
The wiretap affair
What is the “eavesdropping” case?
The “wiretapping” affair began at the end of 2013. At the time, the justice system was investigating suspicions of Libyan financing of the victorious presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. The judges then decided to put the former president tapped, but realize that he is talking with his lawyer, Me Thierry Herzog, through another line, via a second phone with a prepaid chip, open on the name of Paul Bismuth. This “occult” line was tapped in January 2014.
By analyzing these taps, the magistrates discover that the two men seem to be aware of information which is nevertheless covered by the secrecy of the instruction In total, 19 conversations between the former head of state and his lawyer are listed by the judges. During their discussions, they repeatedly mention a contact by the name of “Gilbert” who works at the Court of Cassation. This is Me Gilbert Azibert, who was then first general counsel at the Court of Cassation.
At the time, the Court of Cassation must render an expected decision on the subject of the seizure of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential diaries in the context of the Bettencourt affair. The former head of state is then prosecuted for “abuse of weakness” on Liliane Bettencourt, recalls France info. Nicolas Sarkozy finally benefits from a dismissal in this case, but maintains his appeal in cassation so that the information contained in his presidential diaries cannot reappear in other legal proceedings.
During a conversation between Me Thierry Herzog and Nicolas Sarkozy, the two men evoke a service that the former head of state could render to Gilbert Azibert. “He spoke to me about something about Monaco”, indicates the lawyer to the former President of the Republic. This “thing on Monaco” is in fact a post at the Council of State in the principality. Justice therefore suspects Nicolas Sarkozy and Thierry Herzog of having tried to obtain information, or even of having tried to influence the decision of the Court of Cassation on the presidential agendas, through Gilbert Azibert, in exchange for an honorary post for the ex-magistrate.
How does Nicolas Sarkozy defend himself?
Nicolas Sarkozy has always denied having sealed any “corruption pact” – such the terms used during his conviction at first instance -, simply referring to a “boost”. “I spent my life doing that,” he said at the helm. At the start of the appeal trial, the sexagenarian had said, in an opening statement: “I have never corrupted anyone. It is a strange corruption, without money, not a penny for anyone, without advantage and without a victim. No one was harmed.”
At the helm, Nicolas Sarkozy therefore not only contested the charges brought against him but, above all, the fact of having been wiretapped during his conversations with his lawyer. “The PNF indicated that I behaved like a seasoned delinquent. A seasoned delinquent! A seasoned delinquent, Madame! All because I had used a dedicated laptop. Since then, the Aix Court of Appeal has estimated it was completely legitimate …”, he claimed, citing a judgment rendered by the magistrate who had condemned him at first instance in this case.
In March 2021, Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced to three years in prison, including one year firm, in the “wiretapping” case for “corruption and influence peddling” by the Paris Criminal Court. He later appealed the decision. At the time, the court considered that a “corruption pact” had been concluded between Nicolas Sarkozy, Me Thierry Herzog and Gilbert Azibert. Christine Mée, president of the 32nd correctional chamber of Paris, then declared that Nicolas Sarkozy had “used his status as former president to gratify a magistrate who served his personal interest” in statements reported by The world.
Thierry Herzog was also found guilty of “active corruption” and “violation of professional secrecy”, and was sentenced to three years in prison, two of which were suspended, along with a ban on practicing as a lawyer for five years. Gilbert Azibert was found guilty of “passive corruption” and “concealment of breach of professional secrecy”, and was also sentenced to three years in prison, two of which were suspended. Both the lawyer and the senior magistrate appealed against the conviction.