Nicolas Sarkozy was the first French former president in modern history sentenced to prison for corruption. The judges find him guilty of attempted bribery of a judge and abuse of power during his presidency. He‘s been given three years in prison, two of which are on probation. According to French media, the year cell will be served under electronic supervision in the form of house arrest.
Sarkozy’s predecessor Jacques Chirac (1932-2019) was once sentenced to a conditional prison sentence after his presidency, but that was because of fiddling at the time when he was previously Mayor of Paris.
The evidence put forward against Sarkozy comes from prosecutors who, according to Sarkozy, were seeking to eliminate him politically and had no right to eavesdrop the conversations. Sarkozy contradicts having done something wrong and called it a “outrageous” trial conducted by “vengeful left-wing magistrates and prosecutors.”
According to those present in the courtroom, the former president was completely in shock by the verdict. Because he assumed that he would be acquitted. It‘s almost certain that Sarkozy won’t let it go and that he‘s going to appeal.
Sarkozy made phone calls at the time under the alias Paul Bismuth. Thousands of conversations have been bugged, and in a conversation he repted of an open position in Monaco while asking a judge for information about another case against him. According to prosecutors and judges, this was an irrefutable attempt to bribe his interlocutor. Sarkozy thus abused his power and would also have had confidential information from the magistrate, Gilbert Azibert.
According to the judge, Sarkozy formed a “corrupt pact” with the two co-accused, his then lawyer Thierry Herzog and the magistrate Azibert. They have also been found guilty and sentenced to lighter penalties, inter alia for violation of their official secrecy.
The eavesdropping affair was a by-catch in another research into Nicolas Sarkozy. At the end of 2013, two ex-president’s mobile phones were tapped into a case about alleged illegal campaign funding by the now dead Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. This case is now in question because an important witness has withdrawn. The tapering showed that ‘Sarko’ had a third mobile line under the name Paul Bismuth.
The 66-year-old Sarkozy was president from 2007 to 2012 and is still popular in the center of French politics. He could have made a comeback as an alternative to the less popular left-liberal President Emmanuel Macron and the right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen.
The former president has been claiming the Justice Department has been fighting him for years. In two previous cases, he went free, this is his first conviction. Sarkozy will be in court again on March 17 in another case. He is then accused of having unlawfully funded his election campaign in 2012.