Nicolas Sarkozy became the first former French president to sit on the bench for corruption defendants on Monday, at the opening of the process in which he is tried for an alleged crime of influence peddling. Dressed in black, visibly serious although with his face covered by a mask to comply with the rules of protection against covid-19, Sarkozy arrived at the Palace of Justice through a secondary door to avoid the press, who could only see him when entering the room.
The 65-year-old man who led France between 2007 and 2012 must respond to accusations of corruption and influence peddling allegedly committed in 2014, when he tried to obtain the favors of a judge in another investigation. The case, brought to light by wiretaps ordered by the Justice, reveals the complex judicial panorama facing the former president. Sarkzoy was under wire for the alleged illegal financing with money of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan regime of his 2007 presidential campaign.
In this context, investigators intercepted a conversation between Sarkozy and his lawyer in which the former president was willing to help the promotion of a magistrate in exchange for help in another investigation, that of financing his 2007 campaign with money from the heiress of the cosmetic empire L’Oréal Liliane Bettencourt. From the conjunction of these two cases the third emerged, which has become the first to put the former president on the defendant’s bench. The trial was suspended until Thursday to allow time for a medical examination on one of the co-defendants.
Sarkozy is the first former French president to sit on the dock. Before him, only one former French president, Sarkozy’s political mentor Jacques Chirac, has had to face justice after leaving office, but due to poor health, Chirac never appeared in court. Sarkozy, president from 2007 to 2012, denies the charges against him and vowed that he would be “combative” in this trial.