Sun. Jan 17th, 2021


In 2013, judges started listening in on Sarkozy’s phone conversations as part of a probe into claims he received €50 million ($81 million) in illegal funding for his 2007 presidential campaign from late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

They soon discovered he was using another secret mobile phone, a “burner”, under the false name of Paul Bismuth to communicate with his lawyer.

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When they bugged the second device, prosecutors said they overheard the pair conspiring to give Gilbert Azibert, a magistrate from a top appeals court, a plum job in Monaco in return for information on another troublesome campaign financing case, the so-called Bettencourt affair.

At the time of the secret calls, Sarkozy faced allegations that he accepted illicit brown envelopes of cash from the ailing heiress of cosmetics giant L’Oréal, Liliane Bettencourt, for his 2007 presidential campaign. He was cleared in 2013 of taking advantage of the then-richest woman in the world while she was too frail to understand what she was doing.

Bettencourt died in 2017, aged 94, four years after society photographer Francois-Marie Banier was convicted of elder abuse and money laundering for his treatment of her.

The magistrate, Azibert, never got the posting in Monaco but will also stand trial.

Sarkozy denies all charges, and has complained of being unfairly targeted by authorities. “Is it normal that a former French president would be dragged through the mud as I have been for the past eight years?” he asked on French television last week.

Sarkozy has enjoyed resurgent popularity since retiring, with his most recent memoir, Time of Storms, becoming a summer bestseller. The book, which recounts his first two years in office and his whirlwind romance with supermodel Carla Bruni, has sold more than a quarter of million copies, following on from the 200,000 sales of the 2019 tome Passions, about his rise to power.

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In the eight years since leaving the Elysée palace, the former president has been accused of knowingly overspending the legal limit for his 2012 presidential campaign and of receiving illegal funds for his campaigns and was implicated in a scheme of kickbacks from arm sales to Pakistan.

Many of the cases have dragged on for years, slowed down by multiple appeals over technicalities in a failed attempt to get the charges dropped.

The Telegraph, London

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