AFP, Wednesday 17 May 2023
A French appeals court on Wednesday upheld a prison sentence of three years, including two suspended, against former president Nicolas Sarkozy for corruption and influence peddling.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy leaves the courthouse after theruling in his appeal trial in a corruption case at Paris courthouse on May 17, 2023. AFP
The court maintained he should serve a one-year detention sentence at home with an electronic bracelet and banned him from public office for three years over his attempts to secure favours from a judge in a case uncovered by wiretapping.
The 68-year-old left the courtroom without making any comment, but his lawyer said they would be appealing the decision with the Court of Cassation, France’s highest appeals court.
Sarkozy, who served one term from 2007 to 2012, has been embroiled in legal troubles ever since leaving office.
In March 2021, he became France’s first postwar president to be sentenced to jail when a court found he and his former lawyer, Thierry Herzog, had formed a “corruption pact” with judge Gilbert Azibert to obtain and share information about a legal investigation.
The trial came after investigators wiretapped Sarkozy’s two official phone lines, and discovered that he also had a third unofficial one taken out in 2014 under the name “Paul Bismuth”, through which he communicated with Herzog.
The contents of these phone calls led to the 2021 corruption verdict.
The former leader contested the accusations and immediately appealed.
On the first day of the appeals hearing in December last year, Sarkozy said he had “never corrupted anybody”.
His conversations with Herzog were played in court and expected to take a central role in determining Wednesday’s ruling.
– Two other cases –
The so-called Bismuth case is just one of several pursuing the man dubbed the “hyper-president” while in office.
Sarkozy will be retried on appeal from November 2023 in the so-called Bygmalion case, which at first saw him sentenced to one year in prison.
The prosecution accused Sarkozy’s team of spending nearly double the legal limit on his lavish 2012 re-election campaign, using false billing from a public relations firm called Bygmalion. He has denied any wrongdoing.
And French prosecutors on Thursday demanded he face a new trial over alleged Libyan financing of his 2007 election campaign.
Financial crimes prosecutors said Sarkozy and 12 others should face trial over allegations they sought millions of euros in financing from the regime of then Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi for the ultimately victorious campaign.
Sarkozy is accused of corruption, illegal campaign financing and concealing the embezzlement of public funds but rejects all the charges.
Investigating magistrates are to have the last word on whether or not that trial goes ahead.
Despite his legal problems, Sarkozy still enjoys considerable influence and popularity on the right of French politics and has the ear of incumbent President Emmanuel Macron.
Before Sarkozy, the only French leader to be convicted in a criminal trial was his predecessor Jacques Chirac, who received a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for corruption over a fake jobs scandal relating to his time as Paris mayor.
This article was originally published by Agence France-Presse.