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Der Prozess gegen den ehemaligen französischen Präsidenten Nicolas Sarkozy beginnt

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Nicolas Sarkozy has been under investigation for years He was nicknamed the “bling-bling” president for what many in France saw as his lavish tastes – but now Nicolas Sarkozy (im Bild) steht vor der krassen Realität eines seelenlosen Gerichtssaals. Er wurde wegen Korruption und Einflussnahme vor Gericht gestellt, weil er angeblich versucht hatte, einen Richter zu bestechen, um Informationen über eine Untersuchung seiner Parteifinanzen zu erhalten.

Sarkozy is the first ex-president in modern France to appear in the dock. He led France from 2007 to 2012. His first court appearance was brief, however. The session was suspended after 30 minutes – until Thursday – because a key figure in the case, former senior judge Gilbert Azibert, is required to have a medical examination. He is 73 and did not appear in the dock with his co-accused – Sarkozy, 65, and the ex-president’s former lawyer Thierry Herzog. There is a question mark over the court proceedings because of the general coronavirus disruption. The trial is set to run until 10 December.

If found guilty, Sarkozy could face a 10-year prison sentence and €1m (£889,000) fine. Another former right-wing president, Jacques Chirac, was given a two-year suspended prison sentence in 2011 for diverting public funds and abusing public trust. The offences dated back to his time as mayor of Paris. But he did not appear in court, owing to ill health. He denied wrongdoing. French magistrates have spent years investigating allegations of corruption dating back to Sarkozy’s election campaigns and period in office.

This case is linked to a long-running investigation into the right-wing politician’s suspected use of secret donations to fund his 2007 presidential campaign. The prosecution alleges that Sarkozy and lawyer Thierry Herzog sought to bribe Gilbert Azibert with a prestigious job in Monaco in return for information about that investigation.

It is known as the “wiretapping case” in France, because phone calls between Sarkozy and Herzog were tapped in 2013-2014, in which Sarkozy used the alias “Paul Bismuth” and they discussed Judge Azibert. French media report that Sarkozy was heard telling Herzog “I’ll get him promoted, I’ll help him.”

Sarkozy denies any wrongdoing – and he points out that Judge Azibert did not get the Monaco position. “Gilbert Azibert got nothing, I made no approach [on his behalf] and I’ve been rejected by the Court of Cassation,” Sarkozy said in 2014, referring to his battle to clear his name. In October 2013 magistrates dropped him from their investigation into claims that he had accepted illicit payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.

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