SHARE
COPY LINK

WEALTH

Hermès golf bag among Sarkozy’s gifts to Obama

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave more than $41,000 worth of gifts to US President Barack Obama, in 2011 alone. The most expensive item? A $7,750 Hermès golf bag.

Hermès golf bag among Sarkozy's gifts to Obama
Photo: Philippe Wojazer/AFP

Former president Sarkozy appears to have offered US president Obama more than just kind words on his official visits to the United States during 2011, according to a list published by the US state department.

Lacoste shirts, Louis Vuitton bags, Dupont pens, and perhaps most remarkably, a “large, black Hermes golf accessory bag”, worth $7,750, were among the luxury goods lavished on the golf-mad US leader and his family.

For her part, former French First Lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy presented Baccarat crystal lamps to her American counterpart Michelle Obama, as well as clothes and cosmetics to Sasha and Malia Obama.

The total bill for these opulent displays of transatlantic affection? $41, 675.71, according to the report.

By contrast, other major world leaders appear not to have dug as deep to demonstrate their alliances with the American president.

Queen Elizabeth, for example, spent a total of just $4,400 on porcelain, chocolate, tea and historically-significant state papers for the Obamas, although she did distribute gifts among a wide range of other White House staff.

British Prime Minister David Cameron's gifts cost a total of just under $2,000, but he proved himself a best friend to the Obama family dog, 'Bo,' at least.

Along with a Union Jack chew toy, the Conservative leader presented the president and his wife a tapestry worth $1,400, and gave engraved bracelets to Sasha and Malia.

Former Chinese President Hu Jintao splashed out on a $9,800 statue of Abraham Lincoln, while Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev presented an enamel painting of the Kremlin.

IN PICTURES: CLICK HERE FOR OUR GALLERY OF SARKOZY'S GIFTS TO OBAMA

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

SARKOZY

Corruption trial begins for France’s ex president Sarkozy

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy goes on trial on Monday on charges of trying to bribe a judge, in what could be a humiliating postscript to a political career tainted by a litany of legal investigations.

Corruption trial begins for France's ex president Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo: AFP

Though he is not the first modern head of state in the dock – his predecessor and political mentor Jacques Chirac was convicted of embezzlement – Sarkozy is the first to face corruption charges.

He fought furiously over the past six years to have the case thrown out, and has denounced “a scandal that will go down in history”.

“I am not a crook,” the 65-year-old, whose combative style has made him one of France's most popular rightwing politicians, told BFM TV this month.

Prosecutors say Sarkozy promised the judge a plush job in Monaco in exchange for inside information on an inquiry into claims that Sarkozy accepted illicit payments from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.

Their case rests in large part on wiretaps of phone conversations between Sarkozy and his longtime lawyer Thierry Herzog, which judges authorised as prosecutors also looked into suspected Libyan financing of Sarkozy's 2007 campaign.

That inquiry is still underway, though Sarkozy caught a break this month when his main accuser, the French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, suddenly retracted his claim of delivering millions of euros in cash from Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Sarkozy and Herzog have assailed the taps on their phones as a breach of client-attorney privilege, but in 2016 a top court upheld their use as evidence.

Charged with bribery and influence peddling, Sarkozy risks a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of €1 million.

Herzog, a leading member of the Paris bar, faces the same charges as well as violation of professional secrecy. The trial is expected to last three weeks.

'A boost'

Investigators discovered that Sarkozy used an alias – Paul Bismuth – to buy a private phone for conversing secretly with his lawyer.

On around a dozen occasions, they discussed reaching out to a top French judge, Gilbert Azibert, a general counsel at the Cour de Cassation, France's top appeals court for criminal and civil cases.

Prosecutors say Azibert, who is also on trial, was tasked with trying to obtain information from the Cour de Cassation lawyer in charge of the Bettencourt inquiry, and to induce him to seek a verdict in Sarkozy's favour.

In exchange, Sarkozy would use his extensive contacts to give “a boost” to Azibert's efforts to secure the cushy Monaco post.

“He's been working on it,” Herzog tells Sarkozy in a call from early 2014.
Azibert was already considered a leading candidate for the job, but “if you give him a boost, it's always better,” Herzog says in another.

“I'll make him move up,” Sarkozy tells Herzog, according to the indictment by prosecutors, who compared his actions to those of a “seasoned offender”.

But later, Sarkozy tells his lawyer that he would not “approach” the  Monaco authorities on Azibert's behalf — a sign, according to prosecutors, that the two men had been tipped off about the wiretaps.

“Mr Azibert never got any post in Monaco,” Sarkozy told BFM television this month – though under French law, just an offer or promise can constitute corruption.

Still in limelight

Sarkozy, a lawyer by training, has long accused the French judiciary of waging a vendetta against him, not least because of his attempts to limit judges' powers and criticism that they are too soft on delinquents.

He will again be back in court in March 2021 along with 13 other people over claims of campaign finance violations during his unsuccessful 2012 re-election bid.

Prosecutors accuse Sarkozy's team of using a fake-invoices scheme orchestrated by the public relations firm Bygmalion to spend nearly €43 million on the lavish run – nearly twice the legal limit.

The long-running legal travails hindered his comeback bid for the 2017 presidential vote, losing out as the rightwing nominee to his former prime minister François Fillon.

Yet like other former French presidents, Sarkozy has surfed a wave of popularity since announcing his retirement from politics in 2018, pressing the flesh with enthusiastic crowds at his public appearances.

Lines of fans queued over the summer to have him sign his latest memoirs, “The Time of Storms”, which topped best-seller lists for weeks.

SEE ALSO: Sarkozy accused of racism after 'monkey' comment

SHOW COMMENTS