They had all arrived looking serious. Nicolas Sarkozy, slightly tanned, sat down next to his friend and historic lawyer Thierry Herzog, who was as white as a sheet. At the exit, the closed face and the dark eye they let their lawyers speak to occupy the cameras and the massed microphones and slipped away. This Wednesday, May 17, the Paris Court of Appeal sentenced the former head of state to three years in prison, including one year, for corruption and influence peddling in the wiretapping case.
The decision goes beyond the requisitions of the general prosecutor’s office which had fully matched the suspended sentence, but it confirms the judgment of first instance. A way for the magistrates to insist on “the seriousness” of the alleged facts. Nicolas Sarkozy is the first former president to be sentenced to prison.
His historic lawyer Thierry Herzog and the former senior magistrate Gilbert Azibert were also found guilty of having entered into a “corruption pact” with Nicolas Sarkozy in 2014 and sentenced to the same sentence. The Court of Appeal also pronounced a three-year ban on civil rights for the former head of state, which makes him ineligible, as well as a three-year ban on exercising for Thierry Herzog.
Nevertheless, the sanction, unprecedented for a former president _ Jacques Chirac having seen himself inflicted in 2011 two years of suspended prison in the file of the fictitious jobs of the City of Paris_, could be arranged with the wearing of an electronic bracelet clarified the court. But not immediately, because the lawyers having announced as soon as they left the hearing their intention to appeal to the Court of Cassation, the sentence is suspended.
Even if the president, Sophie Clément, calmly read the motivations of the court, they are striking in their vigor. The same words used, as in the first instance, to stigmatize a “misrepresentation seriously undermining the rule of law”; the same arguments to validate the telephone tapping whose “validity has been decided by the Court of Cassation”, the same reproach “undermining the confidence of citizens” in the institutions because the “facts are all the more serious as they were committed by a former President of the Republic […], guarantor of judicial authority”. Nicolas Sarkozy used his status as former head of state to “serve his personal interest”, the court rebuked.
“Nicolas Sarkozy is innocent of the charges against him. We will go to the end of the legal path”, hammered Nicolas Sarkozy’s lawyer, Jacqueline Lafont, stigmatizing a “staggering”, “unfair and unfair” decision.
The former tenant of the Elysée was found guilty of active corruption on a magistrate and active influence peddling on a person responsible for public authority for having promised in 2014 to help Gilbert Azibert, at the time judge at the Court of cassation, to obtain an honorary position in Monaco.
In exchange, Gilbert Azibert had to provide Nicolas Sarkozy with confidential information on a procedure he had brought before the Court of Cassation.
Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to have the seizure by the courts of his presidential diaries overturned as part of an investigation into illegal payments he was suspected of having received from Liliane Bettencourt, heiress of L’Oréal, for the financing of his electoral campaign for 2007, a case in which he finally received a dismissal. Nicolas Sarkozy did not win his case before the Court of Cassation and Gilbert Azibert was not appointed to Monaco.
“Certainly, the acts undertaken did not have the expected success”, but “this case is nonetheless of a certain gravity in terms of attacks on our institutions and public confidence”, estimated the court. . For her, this is indeed a “corruption pact”.
Nicolas Sarkozy, who has never ceased to proclaim his innocence, and has always denied having “never corrupted anyone”.
The lawyers for the defendants also claim that these wiretaps are illegal, because they believe they undermine the secrecy of exchanges between a lawyer and his client. Critics dismissed by judges. “Thierry Herzog, a brilliant lawyer, has placed himself outside the field of defense”, repeated the president who reproaches him for “never having called Nicolas Sarkozy to reason…/… (and of) did not protect him against himself”.
A ricochet from the Libyan affair
Wednesday’s decision of the Court of Appeal comes in a dark judicial sky for the former strongman of the right who will be retried on appeal in the fall in the “Bygmalion” case, while he is, in addition, under the threat of a third trial: the PNF requested last Thursday his dismissal in correctional in the case of suspicions of Libyan financing of his presidential campaign of 2007.
This legal file, which also implicates three former ministers of Nicolas Sarkozy, is indirectly at the origin of the listening affair. At the end of 2013, the examining magistrates in charge of the investigation into suspicions of Libyan corruption had indeed decided to “connect” the two lines of Nicolas Sarkozy. They then discovered the existence of a third line, unofficial open under the identity of “Paul Bismuth” at the heart of the case on appeal on Wednesday.