Nicolas Sarkozy appeals against corruption investigation


Former French president tries to get probe quashed, claiming phone taps used to gain evidence were improper.

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Former president Nicolas Sarkozy is taking legal action in a bid to get the corruption investigation launched against him dropped. On Friday September 12th lawyers representing both Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog filed demands at the court of appeal in Paris to get the probe – which arose after judges placed a phone tap on him - quashed.

In early July Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation – one step short of charges being brought - as part of a corruption probe by examining magistrates in relation to 'active corruption' and 'influence peddling', plus receiving information that came as a result of the violation of professional secrecy.

The ex-head of state, the first former president to have been held and questioned in custody, is suspected of having used his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, to obtain confidential legal information about the Bettencourt affair from senior judge Gilbert Azibert. In return Azibert is said to have sought help in getting a top job in Monaco.

Strategy's attempt to get the investigation stopped consists of two different approaches. One is to claim that the phone taps that revealed the alleged corruption should not have been in place, as they had initially been authorised by judges in relation to another affair. In effect, say Sarkozy's lawyers, the use of the phone taps to ensnare the former president in this way an improper “trawling expedition”. And therefore all information gleaned from them should not be admissible in legal proceedings.

The other approach is based on the notion that the phone taps violated lawyer-client professional secrecy. Not only did the phone taps feature conversations between Sarkozy and Herzog, they also listened in on calls between Herzog and the barrister who is head of the Paris bar, Pierre-Olivier Sur.

However, the prosecution authorities believe that as the two lines that were eavesdropped were created under a false identity – 'Paul Bismuth' – and that the conversations revealed the commission of a crime, the evidence from the phone taps is admissible, and the investigation thus valid.

Read Mediapart's stories on the investigation and phone taps here, here and here.

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