France’s highest court on Thursday ordered former President Nicolas Sarkozy to stand trial for allegedly attempting to intervene in an investigation into his 2007 campaign finances.
The charges – for corruption and the abuse of influence – emerged as the latest twist in a tangled web of suspected wrongdoing that Sarkozy, France’s conservative president between 2007 and 2012, has doggedly denied. Specifically, they concern allegations that he attempted to sway judges investigating him for campaign finance abuses.
Shortly after he left office, a French media outlets reported, citing documents from Libyan archives, that he may have accepted cash transfers of 50 million euros from the regime of the now-deceased dictator Moammar Gadhafi in order to finance his 2007 run. A government probe was opened that year.
As part of that inquiry, investigators monitored a number of different cell phones Sarkozy used to communicate with his lawyer, Thierry Herzog. According to French media, those monitored phones revealed, in 2014, communications with a judge, Gilbert Azibert, to whom Sarkozy – planning a 2016 presidential run at the time – allegedly promised a plum position in Monaco in exchange for information about other pending legal proceedings against him.
Sarkozy and his lawyers argued that the wiretapping violated attorney-client privilege and that the secretly monitored communications should be deemed inadmissible in court. But in 2016 the Cour de Cassation, the nation’s highest judicial body, rejected their appeal, clearing the way for him to stand trial.
Sarkozy, 63, will now attempt to appeal the trial summons, his lawyers announced Thursday in a statement. “He does not doubt that once again the truth will triumph,” the statement read.
But even a successful appeal in this case would be unlikely to end Sarkozy’s extensive legal woes. Thursday’s order, first reported by France’s Le Monde newspaper, is only the latest in a rapidly multiplying list of charges against the former president.
For one, the Libya probe is still ongoing, and Sarkozy – after years of public denial – was placed under formal investigation last week for allegedly accepting bribes and illegal campaign financing from Gadhafi’s regime, perhaps the gravest charges against a former head of state in modern French history.
In that case, the distinction of formal investigation suggests that investigators now have sufficient grounds to believe that Sarkozy may have committed a crime. He could ultimately stand trial in the Libya case as well.
Sarkozy also is slated to stand trial for alleged campaign finance abuses in his 2012 re-election campaign, which he ultimately lost to François Hollande, a Socialist.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · James McAuley