October 26, 2021

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Nicolas Sarkozy, Former French President, Convicted Of Corruption – NPR

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Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s former president, left, arrives to hear the verdict in a corruption trial at Porte de Clichy court house in Paris, France, on Monday. Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty on Monday by a court in Paris on corruption charges dating from his time in office. He received a three-year jail sentence with two of the years suspended.

In a trial that wrapped up in December, Sarkozy, who served as president from 2007 to 2012, was convicted of bribery and influence peddling.

Prosecutors accused Sarkozy and his lawyer of attempting to bribe a judge in exchange for confidential information on an inquiry looking into allegations that during his 2007 presidential campaign, Sarkozy took illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. The judge, Gilbert Azibert – at the time a top appeals court magistrate – was allegedly offered a cushy job in Monaco in exchange for the information.

The guilty verdict against Sarkozy makes him the second ex-French president in recent years to be convicted of corruption. His predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was convicted in 2011.

The court sentenced Sarkozy, 66, to three years, but suspended two of those years – meaning he faces a year in jail. Sarkozy is allowed to ask to serve home confinement, France24 reported.

Taken together, the charges could have resulted in a maximum sentence of 10 years and a one million euros ($1.2 million) fine, according to France24.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of at least four years, half of which would he would be required to serve.

“The events would not have occurred if a former president, as well as a lawyer, had kept in mind the magnitude, the responsibility, and the duties of his office,” prosecutor Jean-Luc Blachon told the court in December, according to France24.

Sarkozy also testified in December, denying any wrongdoing.

“Never. Never abused my influence, alleged or real,” he told the court. “What right do they have to drag me through the mud like this for six years? Is there no rule of law?”

The state’s case rested mainly on wiretaps of conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, as they discussed the bribe. Sarkozy’s defense attorney called the recorded conversations just “chats between friends.”

The defense also said the fact that the judge never took the job in question was evidence against actual corruption. However, the court rejected that argument, declining to draw any distinction between a successful corruption attempt and a failed one.

NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley in Paris contributed to this report.
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