The Paris Court of Appeal confirmed, on May 17, the conviction of Nicolas Sarkozy in the wiretapping case, known as Azibert-Bismuth. A few days earlier, the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) had requested the dismissal of the former President of the Republic and several of his relatives in the case of the Libyan financing of the 2007 campaign.
Cited in various capacities in several politico-financial affairs, Mr. Sarkozy was condemned twice at first instance – and appealed – in the Bygmallion affair as well as in that of “wiretapping”. For the latter, the decision of the court of appeal must be rendered on May 17.
Wiretapping case (Azibert-Bismuth)
Sentenced at first instance and on appeal
The Paris Court of Appeal confirmed, in a decision handed down on Friday, May 17, the conviction of the former President of the Republic to three years in prison, including one firm, for corruption and influence peddling. The appeals court also issued a three-year civil rights ban, making him ineligible. He had been sentenced to the same penalty in 2021. As soon as the decision was announced, Mr. Sarkozy’s counsel announced that he was going to appeal to the Court of Cation.
Justice accuses him of having tried to obtain from a magistrate at the Court of Cation, Gilbert Azibert, secret information from another case concerning him (the Bettencourt file). In exchange, Nicolas Sarkozy would have promised to intervene in favor of the magistrate so that he obtains a prestigious post in Monaco. The accusation is based on telephone tapping of conversations between Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, on an unofficial line – two prepaid telephones purchased under the name of “Paul Bismuth”.
2012 campaign accounts (Bygmalion)
Convicted at first instance, trial on appeal in November 2023
Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced to one year in prison on September 30, 2021 for “illegal election campaign financing” by the Paris Criminal Court.
The former president appeared from May 20 to June 22, 2021 before the criminal court on suspicion of illegal financing of his campaign in 2012; he only appeared in court for one day of hearings.
Alongside Mr. Sarkozy, the thirteen other defendants were all found guilty of “complicity in the illegal financing of electoral campaigns”. Bastien Millot, co-president of the Bygmalion group and friend of Jean-François Copé, was sentenced to three years in prison, including 18 months suspended, and a fine of 100,000 euros. Franck Attal, Sébastien Borivent and Guy Alvès, three former executives of Bygmalion and its subsidiary Event & Cie also prosecuted, received two years in prison, part of which was suspended, and a 100,000 euro fine.
The investigation and the trial brought to light the system of false invoices and false agreements linking the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and the communication agency Bygmalion, responsible for organizing the numerous meetings of the flash campaign of Mr. Sarkozy in 2012, in order to hide the mive overrun of the legal ceiling for electoral expenses authorized by law.
The former president was, in fact, informed on March 7, 2012, by a warning note, of the risk of exceeding the authorized ceiling, which he ignored and chose, on the contrary, to increase the number of its meetings. “By boosting his campaign, Nicolas Sarkozy did not respect the essential value of equality between candidates. May he bear the consequences today alongside those who worked for him.”, thus declared the two prosecutors during requisitions.
Thirteen of the fourteen convicted, including Nicolas Sarkozy, appealed the decision. “I will go to the end in this quest which goes beyond my personal case because everyone can one day find themselves confronted with injustice”said the former president immediately after his conviction. The appeal trial will begin on November 8, 2023 and will last one month.
Suspicions of Libyan funding in 2007
Nicolas Sarkozy is suspected of having financed part of his 2007 presidential campaign with funds from the regime of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
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This complex file does not include indisputable proof of hidden financing, but a bundle of“serious or concordant indications” (documents, testimonies, financial elements) which led the courts to put Nicolas Sarkozy under investigation for “pive corruption”, “illegal financing of the electoral campaign”, “concealment of Libyan public funds” and “criminal ociation”. Several of his close collaborators, such as Claude Guéant and Brice Hortefeux, are also implicated.
“There has never been near or far, neither in cash nor in transfer, the least Libyan penny to finance my campaign”defended himself Nicolas Sarkozy during his hearing before the judgesin October 2020. On May 10, 2023, the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office requested the dismissal of the former head of state before the criminal court, considering that “if it seems clear that all the Libyan funds initially intended [à la campagne] was not mobilized for this purpose”, “opaque circuits for the circulation of Libyan funds [ont] ultimately resulted in disburts of cash in a time frame and chronology compatible with occult use”.
The PNF recommends that Nicolas Sarkozy be tried for “concealment of embezzlement of public funds, pive corruption, illegal financing of electoral campaigns and ociation of criminals with a view to committing an offense punishable by ten years’ imprisonment”. Twelve of his relatives are also targeted. The investigating judges have one month to decide whether or not to follow the prosecution.
The Karachi Affair
With the approach of the 1995 elections, the government of Edouard Balladur, of which Nicolas Sarkozy was budget minister, would have granted huge commissions during arms sales to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Part of the sums would have returned by intermediaries to finance the presidential campaign of Mr. Balladur, of which Mr. Sarkozy was spokesperson.
In February 2014, the judges responsible for the financial aspect of the Karachi case deemed it necessary to hear Nicolas Sarkozy as an isted witness. It was heard in May 2017so that he explains the endort he gave to these controversial contracts.
In June 2020, six convictions were pronounced by the criminal court in the financial part of the investigation, with an appeal trial scheduled for spring 2024, while in 2021 François Léotard and Edouard Balladur were acquitted by the Court of justice of the Republic.
On the sidelines of the Karachi trial, the former president was also the subject of an investigation for “violation of the secrecy of the instruction” due to a press release from the Elysée in 2011 reporting on the progress of the legal proceedings. , in which the executive is not supposed to interfere. In 2023, the Paris Court of Appeal authorized three magistrates to investigate the matter.
Russian case (Reso-Garantia)
Under preliminary investigation
Justice is questioning a transfer of 500,000 euros received at the beginning of 2020 by Nicolas Sarkozy, within the framework of a consulting contract with the Russian insurance group Reso-Garantia. According Mediapartwho revealed the case in early 2021, “Justice is seeking to verify whether the former head of state only acted as a consultant, which would be perfectly legal, or whether he engaged in potentially criminal lobbying activities on behalf of the Russian oligarchs”.
A preliminary investigation for “influence peddling” was opened against Nicolas Sarkozy by the PNF in the summer of 2020. It is still ongoing.
Bernard Tapie and the Crédit Lyonnais arbitration
Out of cause (immunity)
Nicolas Sarkozy was president in 2008 when the State accepted, during an arbitration, to pay 404 million euros to the businessman Bernard Tapie, in compensation for the damage he would have suffered during the sale of ‘Adidas in 1993.
The arbitration, marred by manipulation, was canceled by the courts in 2015, and Bernard Tapie ordered to reimburse. Christine Lagarde, who had agreed to arbitration as Minister of the Economy, was sentenced in 2016 for “negligence” by the Court of Justice of the Republic.
In this case, Nicolas Sarkozy refused to come and testify, hiding behind his presidential immunity. He was therefore never questioned, even if the judges wondered for a long time about his closeness to Bernard Tapie, and the role he could have played in the arbitration.
Out of cause (immunity)
Under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, the Elysée is suspected of having ped several markets irregularly for the supply of surveys contracted with the companies of two advisers to the president, Patrick Buisson and Pierre Giacometti.
In 2019, justice decided to send six people back to corrections, including two close to Nicolas Sarkozy. The former secretary general of the Elysée Claude Guéant has been condemned in January 2022 to eight months in prison for favoritism, and was released on parole a month later.
Mr. Sarkozy could not be targeted by the judges, because the case had taken place within the framework of his mandate. It was in the name of this presidential immunity that he refused to surrender to the judge’s summons in 2016.
Out of cause (dismissal)
After having been auditioned several times, placed under the status of isted witness, then indicted for abuse of weakness, influence peddling and concealment, Nicolas Sarkozy benefited from a dismissal in 2013. The investigators failed to gather sufficient evidence showing that he would have taken advantage of the state of weakness of the extremely wealthy Liliane Bettencourt, heiress of the L’Oréal group.
Campaign Account Penalties
Out of cause (dismissal)
The investigation opened for breach of trust was aimed at the penalties for exceeding the spending limit for Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2012 campaign. He should have paid for them himself; however, they were settled by the UMP. Placed under the status of isted witness, the former president finally benefited from a dismissal in September 2015, like the other protagonists.
Update from May 12 at 4 p.m.: update of information concerning several cases (wiretapping, Bygmalion, Libyan financing, Karachi, polls) and withdrawal of cases in which the president had been cited during investigations but never directly questioned by the courts (Kazakhgatebanknotes of 500 euros, jet travel).