France's Sarkozy to face trial for corruption and influence peddling: lawyer

France's Sarkozy to face trial for corruption and influence peddling: lawyer
Copyright Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
By Cristina Abellan Matamoros with REUTERS, AFP
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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy will stand trial for corruption and influence peddling after the country's highest court rejected his final bid to have the case thrown out, said his lawyer on Wednesday.


Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy lost his final bid to avoid going to trial on charges of corruption and influence peddling, said his lawyer on Wednesday. This is the first time in the history of modern France that a former leader will face explicit corruption charges in court.

Sarkozy stands accused of offering to help a judge win a promotion in Monaco in return for leaked information.

The Court of Cassation, which rules on questions of law, said that a trial was justified for Sakorzy, his lawyer Thierry Herzog as well as former judge Gilbert Azibert.

The trial is set to begin in the next months in Paris but doesn't have a set date yet.

Sarkozy is not the first former president to be prosecuted, his predecessor Jacques Chirac was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for embezzlement and misuse of public funds during his time as mayor of Paris.

What does the case concentrate on?

The case arose after investigators tapped the phones of Sarkozy and Herzog to examine allegations that the former president had received millions of euros for his 2007 election campaign from the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

What they began to suspect while listening on the phone calls is that Sarkozy had offered Azibert a promotion in return for information on developments in a parallel investigation into allegations Sarkozy accepted illicit payments from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for the same campaign.

The inquiry revealed that Sarkozy often communicated with Herzog with mobile phones obtained under fake names. Sarkozy is believed to have used the alias of Paul Bismuth.

The former president was cleared over the Bettencourt allegations in 2013 and claimed he should not face trial because Azibert never got the job in Monaco.

But investigators believe the deal fell through because Sarkozy and his lawyer learned that their phones were tapped.

Using a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling as a backup, Sarkozy’s defence lawyers argue that wiretapped transcriptions can be used only against lawyers and not their clients.

"It will be up to the court now to say if a French institution can free itself of a decision by the ECHR," Sarkozy's lawyer Jacqueline Laffont told AFP.

A sea of legal trouble

Sarkozy's post-Elysee life has been mired by legal trouble. In 2014, he became the first former president to be taken into police custody during a preliminary stage of the inquiry.

Last month, a top court rejected an appeal to avoid another trial, which involved charges of illicit financing of his 2012 campaign. Prosecutors claimed Sarkozy spent nearly €43 million on his re-election campaign — almost double the legal limit of €22.5 million — by using fake invoices. Sarkozy denounced the charges arguing he was unaware of the fraud by the public relations company Bygmalion.

The former president was also charged over accusations that his 2007 election campaign was aided by millions of euros in money from Gaddafi.

Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine claimed to have transferred €5 million in a briefcase to Sarkozy's campaign manager at the time.

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