The judge overseeing the corruption case against former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has received a death threat and bullets in the post.
Sarkozy denies claims that he accepted illegal donations from one of the world’s richest wome, L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, to fund his successful 2007 electoral campaign.
According to a statement published on the website of magistrates’ union SM, the most prominent of the three judges in the case, Jean-Michel Gentil, was the target of the letter.
“Today (Wednesday, March 27) this magistrate was sent a letter to which blank cartridges were attached, clearly making a threat of death to him, those close to him and members of the magistrates’ union,” the union said on its website.
It is alleged that Sarkozy took financial advantage of Bettencourt, now aged 90. Medical experts report that since 2006 her mental faculties had begun to deteriorate.
Judge Gentil had recently summoned Sarkozy to a meeting with Bettencourt’s butler, Pascal Bonnefoy. In the meeting Sarkozy maintained that he had only visited Bettencourt once in 2007, but the butler’s version is said to be different.
It is alleged that Bettencourt’s staff gave 150,000€ in cash to employees of Sarkozy and that on one occasion, Sarkozy collected the “cash stuffed envelope” himself.
Bettencourt’s former accountant Claire Thibout claims it was Eric Woerth, Sarkozy’s campaign treasurer and later budget minister, who collected the money. Woerth has since resigned over the scandal.
The decision was then made by prosecutors to launch a formal investigation, which threatens to destroy Sarkozy’s nascent political comeback. The decision has triggered a hostile reaction from his political allies.
On Monday, Sarkozy refuted the allegations through Facebook, saying the charges were “unfair and unfounded.” His lawyer has also questioned the impartiality of Judge Gentil, arguing that the judge signed an opinion column in Le Monde newspaper in June accusing Sarkozy and his predecessor Jacques Chirac of “wishing to protect the corrupt”.
According to Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, “Five days after signing this column, the same judge ordered four raids on Sarkozy’s home, his office and his secretary’s house,”
Sarkozy could face up to three years in jail, a five year pan from public office, and a fine of 375,000€ if convicted.