France’s Sarkozy convicted of corruption, sentenced to jail
03 Mar 2021

AP — A Paris court found French former President Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence peddling on Monday and sentenced him to a year in prison. He can ask to serve that time at home and also plans to appeal.

The 66-year-old, who was president from 2007 to 2012, was convicted of trying to bribe a magistrate in exchange for information about a legal case in which he was implicated.

He will remain free while he appeals, but it was a blow to the retired politician who still plays an influential role in French conservative politics. It’s not the end of his legal troubles either: He faces another trial later this month and is also under investigation in a third case.

The ruling marks the first time in France’s modern history that a former president has been convicted of corruption — and given a prison term. His predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was found guilty in 2011 of misuse of public money during his time as Paris mayor — not considered a corruption offense — and was given a two-year suspended prison sentence.

The court said Sarkozy is entitled to ask to be detained at home with an electronic bracelet — as is the case for any sentence of two years or less. He also received a two-year suspended sentence — which he will not have to serve if he commits no new offense in the next five years.

Later, Sarkozy’s lawyer, Jacqueline Laffont, said he would appeal.

Sarkozy’s co-defendants — his lawyer and longtime friend Thierry Herzog, 65, and now-retired magistrate Gilbert Azibert, 74 — were also found guilty and given the same sentence as the politician.

The court found that Sarkozy and his co-defendants sealed a “pact of corruption,” based on “consistent and serious evidence”.

The court said the case was “particularly serious” given that the acts were committed by a former president for his personal gain. In addition, as a lawyer by training, Sarkozy was “perfectly aware” that what he was doing was illegal, the court said.

Sarkozy did not deny offering to help Azibert get a job in Monaco — but he firmly refuted that he had done anything wrong during the 10-day trial at the end of last year.

Seated on a chair facing the judges and wearing a mask largely hiding his face, Sarkozy showed no reaction when the verdict was read out, and quickly left the courtroom.

“What insane harassment, my love,” his wife Carla Bruni said in a post on Instagram. “The fight goes on, truth will see the light.”

The trial focused on phone conversations that took place in February 2014.

At the time, investigative judges had launched an inquiry into the financing of Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign. During the investigation, they discovered that Sarkozy and Herzog were communicating via secret mobile phones registered to the alias “Paul Bismuth.”

Wiretapped conversations on those phones led prosecutors to suspect Sarkozy and Herzog of promising Azibert a job in Monaco in exchange for leaking information about another legal case involving Sarkozy.

In one phone call with Herzog, Sarkozy said of Azibert: “I’ll make him move up. … I’ll help him.”

In another, Herzog reminded Sarkozy to “say a word” for Azibert during a trip to Monaco.

Azibert never got the Monaco job, and legal proceedings against Sarkozy have been dropped in the case he was seeking information about.

By Sylvie Corbet, AP, 1 March 2021

Read more at the Associated Press

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