JUSTICE – Justice has rendered its decision. The Paris Court of Appeal sentenced Nicolas Sarkozy this Wednesday, May 17 to three years in prison, including one year for corruption and influence peddling in the so-called “wiretapping” case, also called “Paul Bismuth”. An unprecedented sanction for a former president.
His historic lawyer Thierry Herzog and the former senior magistrate Gilbert Azibert were sentenced to the same sentences as the former President of the Republic. The Court of Appeal also pronounced a three-year ban on civil rights for Nicolas Sarkozy, which makes him ineligible, as well as a three-year ban on practicing for Me Herzog.
“The firm part of the sentence will be adjusted”however, specified the president, in the form of an electronic bracelet.
The Paris Court of Appeal therefore confirmed the sentence pronounced at first instance, on March 1, 2021, against the former President of the Republic who listened to the decision sitting on the bench of the defendants, his jaw clenched.
” Messrs. Herzog and Sarkozy are lawyers, Mr. Azibert is a specialist in criminal procedure. None of the three can claim ignorance of the offenses committed,” estimated the president during the reading of the decision.
“With regard to Nicolas Sarkozy, the acts are all the more serious as they are committed by a former President of the Republic”, also recalled the court in its decision. Reason why, “This case constitutes serious harm by instilling the idea that business can be the subject of hidden arrangements”.
The defendants now have five days to appeal in cassation, as recalled by the president before closing the hearing. An appeal confirmed a few moments later by Me Jacqueline Laffont, Nicolas Sarkozy’s lawyer, who evokes a ” staggering decision “.
“In some cases, justice has great difficulty in recognizing its wrongs, sometimes its faults and in reassessing itself. Nicolas Sarkozy is innocent of the charges against him”she added, bitter, at the exit of the courtroom.
A “case of unprecedented gravity”
In an unprecedented judgment for a former president of the Fifth Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced at first instance to three years’ imprisonment, including one year, for corruption and influence peddling. The one who never ceased to proclaim his innocence immediately appealed.
On the first day of this new trial, December 5, 2022, he claimed to have come “defending his scorned honor” and assured not to have “never corrupt anyone”.
At the end of the debates, the public prosecutor’s office had castigated a “a matter of unprecedented seriousness during the Fifth Republic”, but had not asked for a prison sentence against the former tenant of the Elysée, 68 years old today. Three years in prison fully suspended were requested against the former head of state and his two co-defendants, his lawyer and friend Thierry Herzog and the former high magistrate Gilbert Azibert.
The public prosecutor had also demanded a five-year ban on civil rights for Nicolas Sarkozy and Gilbert Azibert, 76, as well as a ban on practicing the profession of lawyer during the same period for Me Herzog, 67.
Nicolas Sarkozy under strong legal pressure
This decision was expected while the former strongman of the right is under threat of another resounding trial: the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) on Thursday requested his referral to correctional in the case of suspicions of Libyan financing of his 2007 presidential campaign.
This legal file, which also implicates three former ministers of Nicolas Sarkozy, is indirectly at the origin of the affair of the “eavesdropping”. At the end of 2013, the investigating judges in charge of the investigation into suspicions of Libyan corruption decided to “connect” the two lines of Nicolas Sarkozy. They then discover the existence of a third, unofficial line.
Purchased on January 11, 2014 under the identity of “Paul Bismuth”, it is dedicated to exchanges between the former president and his lawyer and longtime friend, Thierry Herzog. Their telephone conversations, broadcast for the first time during the second trial in December, constitute the heart of the case and the basis of the accusation.
For the public prosecutor, a pact of corruption takes shape in these wiretaps with Gilbert Azibert, then general counsel at the Court of Cassation, accused of having worked behind the scenes to weigh in on an appeal brought by Nicolas Sarkozy in the Bettencourt affair, in exchange for a “boost” for an honorary position in Monaco.
On February 7, the Paris Court of Appeal rejected the two priority questions of constitutionality (QPC) raised by the defense of Nicolas Sarkozy and Thierry Herzog to contest the legality of the prosecution.
Under strong judicial pressure, Nicolas Sarkozy will be retried on appeal in the fall in the “Bygmalion” case, which relates to the costs of his 2012 presidential campaign. He had been sentenced to one year in prison in September 2021.
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