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March 2, 2021

TrueNewsBlog- TNB

TRUENEWSBLOG- Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted Monday on corruption charges, shaking his conservative allies and pouring cold water on hopes for a political comeback.

Sarkozy, who served as president from 2007 to 2012, was accused of having offered a judge a plum job in exchange for confidential information related to another trial he was facing. He has denied all allegations.

The Paris court sentenced him to three years in jail, two of them suspended — although it’s unlikely he will be moved to prison as the term can be served under conditions such as house arrest.

This is the first time a former French president has received a jail sentence (Jacques Chirac received a suspended sentence in 2011 over a fake job case), and Sarkozy’s lawyer said they would appeal.

“The president is calm, he is determined,” his lawyer Jacqueline Laffont told TV channel CNews. “We will appeal, he is presumed innocent. We don’t doubt the appeal court will overturn the sentence.”

The conviction deals a blow to his allies in the conservative Les Républicains party, who had regularly hinted that although Sarkozy had officially retired from politics, the 2022 presidential vote could offer them a chance at a comeback with his already established name.

The president of Les Républicains, Christian Jacob, said the sentence was “absolutely disproportionate and exposes the judicial system’s persecution [of Sarkozy].”

Michel Barnier, the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator who is making a return to French politics, tweeted: “I simply want to reiterate my friendship with President Sarkozy. His decision to appeal is completely legitimate.”

Bruno Retailleau, head of the conservative group in the Senate, referred to the ruling as “an extremely harsh sentence in a strikingly empty case” on Twitter.

In private, however, some of Sarkozy’s associates had acknowledged before the decision came out that a guilty verdict would likely nip his new presidential ambitions in the bud.

“If he is sentenced, there is no more talking about it,” one of them told POLITICO’s Playbook Paris.

During the court hearings, which took place last fall, Sarkozy and his supporters argued that the trial was built on “lies” and politically motivated. 

Corruption allegations against the ex-president surfaced after investigators wiretapped conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog as they were looking into allegations of Libyan financing in Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign. 

The recordings showed Sarkozy and Herzog had discussed contacting Gilbert Azibert, a magistrate at the Court of Cassation, France’s court of last resort for criminal cases, to try to gain information about a separate investigation into whether the ex-president had received donations from L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

Prosecutors said Sarkozy and his lawyer discussed offering a prestigious post in Monaco to Azibert in return for information about the Bettencourt case, which was eventually dropped.  Herzog and Azibert were also on trial with Sarkozy and similarly charged with corruption and influence peddling. They were also sentenced to jail terms.

The corruption trial is just one of several cases in which Sarkozy is involved. Next March, the former president is due in court over accusations of violating campaign finance rules during his failed 2012 reelection bid. 


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