• France's news in English

Magistrates held in latest Sarkozy corruption probe

AFP/The Local · 30 Jun 2014, 13:59

Published: 30 Jun 2014 13:59 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Nicolas Sarkozy's lawyer and two magistrates were detained Monday for questioning in one of a raft of corruption probes embroiling the former president of France.

Investigators are seeking to establish whether Sarkozy, with the help of his lawyer Thierry Herzog, attempted to pervert the course of justice in a case with the potential to land the country's former leader in jail.

They suspect Sarkozy, 59, sought to obtain inside information from one of the magistrates about the progress of another probe and that he was tipped off that his mobile phone had been tapped by judges looking into the alleged financing of his 2007 election campaign by former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The detention of Herzog and the two magistrates was seen as a step towards Sarkozy himself being taken into custody for questioning and potentially charged -- a move that would be devastating for his hopes of a political comeback in time for the next presidential campaign in 2017.

Under French law, suspects in criminal cases can be held in custody for up to 48 hours before they must be charged or released.

Sarkozy is alleged to have been helped to victory in 2007 with up to €50 million ($70 million at the time) provided by Gaddafi and envelopes stuffed with cash from France's richest woman, L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

He dismisses the Gaddafi claims as ridiculous and was cleared last year of taking Bettencourt's money when she was too frail to know what she was doing. 

His campaign treasurer is one of ten people awaiting trial in that case.   

The Gaddafi investigation is ongoing. It was in connection with it that the judges last year obtained the unprecedented authorization to tap the phones of a former president.

Secret phone

After four fruitless months they discovered Sarkozy had a secret phone registered under an assumed name and it was conversations with Herzog recorded on that device that triggered the investigation.

Leaked excerpts suggest Sarkozy got a friendly judge to try to influence the outcome of confidential legal deliberations related to the Bettencourt case in return for support securing a lucrative post in Monaco.

They also imply he had a mole in a senior position who tipped him off about a planned police raid on his offices.

Such interference in the judicial process is regarded as "influence peddling" in French law and carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Sarkozy has attacked the tapping of his phones as worthy of East Germany's notorious Stasi secret police. The authorization of recordings of lawyer-client conversations has also provoked misgivings within sections of France's legal establishment.

Separately, Sarkozy has recently been linked to a scandal over the funding of his campaign for re-election in 2012.

The leader of his UMP party resigned last month after it emerged that €10 million ($13.6 million) spent in support of Sarkozy had been fraudulently passed off as party expenses.

Story continues below…

Sarkozy denies any knowledge or involvement in the falsification of bills for organizing campaign rallies and other events. A criminal investigation into that case was opened last week.

Authorities are also investigating claims that, once in office, Sarkozy rigged a dispute settlement procedure which resulted in disgraced tycoon Bernard Tapie receiving €400 million from the government.

The Tapie payout, it is alleged, was organised in return for political support in 2007.

Sarkozy has been implicated in a number of other scandals which are still being investigated.

The most serious of these centres on an allegation that he helped organize kickbacks from a Pakistani arms deal to finance the 1995 presidential campaign of former premier Edouard Balladur.

He is also being probed over allegations that, while president, he used public funds to pay for party political research and handed out contracts for polling to a political crony.

AFP/The Local (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France sees biggest drop in jobless rate for 20 years
Photo: AFP

Good news at last. But it's unlikely to keep President François Hollande in his job.

Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
The fantastic new Bordeaux wine museum. Photo: AFP

After The Local France, the Lonely Planet has followed suit by urging everyone to head to Bordeaux in 2017.

Jungle shacks set ablaze and torn down as camp razed
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: The razing of the Jungle has finally begun.

Frenchwoman finds WW1 grenade among her spuds
Photo: AFP

It could have been a very explosive family dinner.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available