A court has found Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence peddling and sentenced the former French president to three years.
The former president was said to have forged a “corruption pact” with his lawyer and a senior magistrate. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but two of them were suspended.
Judges said there was “serious evidence” of collaboration between the three men to break the law. The court had heard how Sarkozy instructed his lawyer Thierry Herzog to offer the magistrate a cushy job on the Côte d’Azur in return for information on a separate investigation centred on the rightwing politician.
It is unlikely the former president will spend a day in jail. The one year prison sentence can be served with certain conditions, including the wearing of an electronic bracelet, or limited home confinement.
Sarkozy is expected to appeal against the conviction.
The verdict, delivered on Monday afternoon, will quash Sarkozy’s hopes of returning to public life in time for next year’s presidential election. His centre-right Les Républicains party, has been struggling to come up with a credible candidate since Sarkozy’s former prime minister François Fillon was engulfed in scandal during the 2017 presidential race, opening the way for Emmanuel Macron to win.
Judge Christine Mée, president of the Paris tribunal, said there was serious evidence of a “corruption pact” between Sarkozy, Herzog and senior magistrate Gilbert Azibert.
Herzog and Azibert were given similar sentences.
The case, based on telephone taps, became known as the “Bismuth Affair”; Paul Bismuth was the name the former president employed for two burner telephones used to communicate with his lawyer Thierry Herzog.
Sarkozy had repeatedly denied the accusations of wrongdoing and spent years attempting to have the charges thrown out and the case dismissed. Herzog argued the recorded conversations between him and Sarkozy were covered by client-lawyer privilege and could not be used as evidence.
Before his trial last year, Sarkozy had said he welcomed the hearing as a chance to “clean my name”.
“I am combative. I have no intention of being accused of things I haven’t done. I’m not corrupt and what has been inflicted on me is a scandal that will rest in the annals. The truth will out,” Sarkozy told BFMTV.
However, the public prosecutor accused the former president, his lawyer Thierry Herzog and senior magistrate Gilbert Azibert of having signed a “corruption pact”.
French detectives began monitoring Sarkozy’s communications in September 2013 as part of an investigation into claims he had received an illegal and undeclared €50m donation from Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to fund his successful 2007 presidential campaign.
What they heard from the recorded conversations pointed investigators in a new and unexpected direction. They revealed the former president and Herzog were “secretly” communicating using mobile telephones registered under false names.
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