Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been ordered to stand trial for corruption and influence peddling involving a judge, from whom he tried to get information about an investigation, a legal source said Thursday.
According to prosecutors, Sarkozy’s lawyer tried to get information from judge Gilbert Azibert over the status of a campaign financing investigation.
In that inquiry, Sarkozy was suspected of accepting illicit payments from the L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.
Sarkozy’s lawyer Thierry Herzog and Azibert must also stand trial in the case dating back to 2014, the source said, confirming a report in French daily Le Monde.
All rise: Nicolas Sarkozy, pictured with fellow former French President Francois Hollande yesterday, allegedly used informants to gain intel on police investigation into claims the L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt financed his election campaign
He was cleared in 2013 of taking advantage of the elderly heiress, but wiretaps on Sarkozy’s phone suggested he and lawyer Herzog had discussed giving Azibert, a magistrate from a top appeals court, a job in Monaco in exchange for information on the Bettencourt case.
Sarkozy has argued that the job never materialised, meaning he is not guilty of anything, but investigators believe the deal fell through because the former president and his lawyer learned their phones were being tapped.
Herzog and Azibert are also facing charges of violation of confidentiality.
L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt (pictured) allegedly made illicit payments to Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign
The decision to send the case to trial comes a week after Sarkozy – who already faces a trial for illegal campaign financing in his 2012 re-election campaign – was charged with accepting millions of euros in funding from late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi
The new trial came about after investigators using phone-taps to examine the alleged links to Gaddafi began to suspect he had kept tabs on a separate case through a network of informants.
Love lost: Sarkozy was last week charged with passive bribery, illegal campaign financing and receiving £4.35million of Libyan public funds from Muammar Gaddafi. The pair are pictured at Elysee Palace in Paris in 2007
Sarkozy, who served as President of France from 2007 to 2012, has been charged with passive bribery, illegal campaign financing and receiving £4.35million of Libyan public funds.
If he is found guilty, he could be jailed over the donations, which are believed to have been laundered through bank accounts in Panama and Switzerland.
In a court statement published last week, Sarkozy called the charges ‘slanderous’ and claimed that the accusations are a ‘manipulation by the dictator Gaddafi or his gang’.
‘I’ve been living the hell of this slander since March 11, 2011’ when the late Colonel Gaddafi first made the allegations, Sarkozy said.
Out in public: Sarkozy attended the ceremony to honour Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame, who was killed in last week’s terrorist attack, along with French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, his wife Brigitte Macron and Francois Hollande at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris
He also lashed out at Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine who claims to have delivered three cash-stuffed suitcases from Kadhafi in 2006 and 2007, when Sarkozy was preparing his first run for president.
Takieddine, who claimed he provided 1.5 to 2 million euros in 200-euro and 500-euro notes, has ‘highly suspect characteristics and the questionable past’, Sarkozy retorted.
His lawyer, Thierry Herzog, used the same colourful language when he went on radio last friday Friday to defend his client.
‘I will prove (ex-) President Sarkozy innocent. I will give proof he is innocent and then we will know who the evildoers are, who the thugs are, who the assassins are, who the robbers are,’ he told RTL.
Before his indictment, Sarkozy was planning a trip to London, but he is now under judicial control and may not be allowed to travel.
On Wednesday, he was in attendance at a ceremony at the Hotel des Invalides, along with fellow former president Francois Hollande, honouring the police officer killed in by an ISIS terrorist in southwestern France last week.