Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy slams ‘slander’ at corruption trial
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In a short declaration at the beginning of his trial on corruption charges, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday described the accusations he faced as insults.
“I do not recognize any of the abominations which have been levelled at me for 6 years,” he told the court.
Sarkozy is being tried on charges of corruption and influence-peddling and risks a maximum sentence of 10 years and a one million euro fine if convicted. He is the first former French president to stand in the dock.
His lawyer, Jacqueline Laffont, opened the defence on Monday with what right-wing newspaper Le Figaro described as a blistering speech, in which she denounced what she called a “garbage case” against her client and demanded the annulment of the entire trial.
The former right-wing president is accused of offering a judge, Gilbert Azibert, a comfortable retirement job in exchange for inside information on an inquiry into his campaign finances.
Azibert and Sarkozy’s longtime personal lawyer, Thierry Herzog are also on trial.
Alias 'Paul BIsmuth'
Prosecutors say Sarkozy and Herzog tried to bribe Azibert with a post in Monaco, in return for information from him on an investigation into accusations that Sarkozy had received illict payments from the late L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt during his 2007 presidential campaign.
Wiretaps of conversations between Herzog and Sarkozy – who used a phone bought under the alias of ‘Paul Bismuth’ –purportedly reveal the two men making plans to get Azibert to help them.
Azibert was a senior advisor at France’s highest appeals court at the time.
Azibert never got a post in Monaco and Sarkozy was cleared of any wrongdoing in the Bettencourt case.
Sarkozy has been battling a number of investigations since he lost his immunity from prosecution after losing his re election bid in 2012.
Investigators are still probing allegations that he received millions of euros in funding from Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi towards his 2007 re election campaign.
In an unexpected twist in October, the main accuser in that case retracted his allegations, claiming a judge had dictated them to him.
Sarkozy is also accused of fraudulently overspending on the 2012 presidential race.
In a recent television interview with French TV station BFMTV Sarkozy portrayed the numerous investigations as a lengthy judicial vendetta.
And despite his enduring popularity among right wing voters, he ruled out any idea of a comeback. “I’ve turned the page,” he said, “I’m now fighting for truth and for justice.”
Sarkozy is the first former French president to appear in the dock at his trial.
The hearings that began yesterday were due to begin on 23rd November but Azibert, who is 73, requested a postponement, citing health problems.
However a medical exam ordered by the court concluded on Thursday that he was fit enough to attend his trial.
Sarkozy’s predecessor Jacques Chirac was convicted over the creation of fictitious jobs at Paris City Hall dating from the time when he was mayor of the capital.
He was given a two year suspended sentence but was excused from attendance at his trial in 2011 on health grounds.
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