Of all the presidents of the Fifth Republic laid down by General Charles de Gaulle in 1958, only Nicolas Sarkozy, its sixth president, knows this amount of prosecutions, lawsuits and investigations of his own.
It is true that Jacques Chirac, the fifth president, was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence after the end of his term, but the case dates back to a period during which he was not president of the republic. As for what was issued on Wednesday morning by the Court of Appeal in Paris against Sarkozy, it is unprecedented, as it ruled that he be imprisoned for three years, two of which are suspended and the third is enforceable after his conviction of corruption and abuse of influence.
However, the court did not request that he be sent to prison; Given that he is a former President of the Republic. Therefore, he must be placed under permanent supervision through an electronic bracelet. The former president had hoped that the Court of Appeal would reverse a similar ruling issued by the Court of First Instance, but his hopes were dashed, and therefore he is betting on the ruling being overturned by the Court of Cassation, which is the highest judicial authority in France.
Immediately after the verdict was announced, Jacqueline Lavon, Sarkozy’s lawyer, confirmed the transfer of the case to the Court of Cassation. In view of the slow work of the judiciary in France, the new trial is unlikely to take place before next year, which means that Sarkozy, who was present to hear the verdict, left the court grim-faced, but he is free.
Contrary to what he is known for following a policy of attacking the judiciary and judges and “harnessing them against him for political reasons,” this time he remained silent.
The court also ruled to deprive Sarkozy of his civil rights for three years, which basically means that he will not have the right to vote or run for any elections, and he is also prohibited from leaving French territory.
Two similar rulings were issued against Thierry Herzog (67 years), who is Sarkozy’s closest lawyer, and against former Chief Justice Gilbert Azibir, after they were convicted of making a “corruption deal” with Sarkozy in 2014, and they were sentenced to the same penalty, in addition to that Hitzog, who is one of the most famous lawyers in France, Banned from practicing his profession for three years.
The story of this ruling is very complex and difficult to simplify. Its basis is that Sarkozy was afraid, after the end of his presidential term in 2012, that his name would be implicated in the scandal of the so-called “Libyan financing” for his presidential campaign in 2007; So he sought, according to what is understood from the severe sentence, to obtain information about his file illegally, through his lawyer, from Judge Gilbert Azibir, in return for helping the latter to appoint him to a comfortable position in the Principality of Monaco.
To communicate with Sarkozy, Herzog subscribed to a cell line in the name of “Paul Bethmouth,” a friend of his residing in Israel, in order to communicate with the former president, away from the hearing of the judges, who requested the imposition of censorship on Sarkozy and Herzog’s phones. How surprised the original Paul Bethmouth was when he learned that Herzog had given his identity to the former president. Thanks to the wiretapping of intelligence between Sarkozy-Bethmouth and his client, the judiciary was able to uncover the plan. From here, the lawsuit was known as “Bethmouth Communications”.
Sarkozy’s troubles do not stop at this ruling, as he is invited to appear before the Court of Appeal again next fall in a campaign financing case, but this time for 2012, after he was convicted of it in the Court of First Instance.
The basis of the lawsuit is that his campaign doubled the electoral expenses ceiling set by law. In addition, Sarkozy is awaiting a third trial at the request of the Public Prosecutor authorized to look into financial cases last Thursday to refer him to the Criminal Court in the case of suspected financing of Libya for his 2007 presidential campaign.
And regarding the financing of the 2012 campaign, whose elections he lost to candidate Francois Hollande, Sarkozy will not be alone, as he will be represented by no less than ten people who held key responsibilities alongside him. The former president’s defense relies on the fact that he was not aware of the details of his campaign financing.
As for Libyan financing, a case that dates back to eight years, two former ministers will appear alongside him before the judiciary. They are the former interior minister and Sarkozy’s closest advisor, Claude Guéant, and the minister, Brice Hortfo, who also served as interior minister.
He wrote a lot about “Libyan finance” and linked it to the close relationship that developed between Sarkozy and the head of the Libyan state, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and about the money transferred by mediators to the two parties, about the disappearance of documents, and the death of people who were related to this file.
Likewise, a lot has been said about the reasons that prompted Sarkozy to be the Western president most impulsive to the Western military intervention in Libya in 2011, which led to the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime and then his death. Sarkozy has been formally charged with involvement in illegal financing, corruption and the disposal of Libyan funds.
The difficulty of this lawsuit is that the investigation did not obtain compelling evidence, but there are doubts, and Sarkozy has strongly denied the existence of any Libyan funding, while the judiciary sees the exact opposite. Sarkozy twice benefited from his presidential immunity in two scandals, the first dealing with the arbitration obtained by former minister and deputy Bernard Tapie, according to which he recovered huge funds from the French state, and he believes that Sarkozy helped him in that.
The second scandal deals with opinion polls requested by the Elysee departments, which smell of corruption and nepotism.
The foregoing is just the tip of the iceberg of issues with which Sarkozy’s name and the names of his former ministers and aides have been linked. Despite all this, the former president is still the first reference for the French right, with whom he won the presidential elections for the last time in 2007, after which the right withered away and its political presence and number of deputies diminished, especially its influence in political life.
After five years, during which his relations with the former Socialist President of the Republic, Francois Hollande, worsened, he has a good relationship with the current President, Emmanuel Macron, who consults him on major issues.