France's highest court, the Cour de Cassation, has backed the use of telephone taps on Nicolas Sarkozy that led to the former French president being placed under formal investigation for alleged corruption and influence peddling. The ruling by the court on Tuesday March 22nd now potentially paves the way for Sarkozy to be formally charged and sent for trial over the affair, which involves claims he sought to induce a senior judge to obtain confidential information about another judicial case involving the former head of state.
In February 2016 Sarkozy was also placed under investigation in an entirely separate case, for his suspected role in a system of false invoicing that hid the vast overspending of his failed 2012 re-election bid. Many of his close allies are also facing judicial investigations in cases involving alleged corruption, money laundering, fraud and influence peddling. If Sarkozy is sent for trial, he would be following in the footsteps of his predecessor President Jacques Chirac, who stood trial in 2011.
In Tuesday's judgement, the Cour de Cassation rejected Nicolas Sarkozy's appeal against a decision by examining magistrates Patricia Simon and Claire Thépaut in July 2014 to investigate him over corruption allegations. Sarkozy was put under formal investigation – one step short of charges bring brought – for “corruption” and “influence peddling” plus breaching professional secrecy rules over claims that he 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. The two other men are also under formal investigation and were involved in the unsuccessful appeal.
Read the court's ruling (in French only) below:
The backdrop to the current probe into alleged corruption by Sarkozy centres on the former president's diaries. These had been seized by judges investigating the Bettencourt affair. Once the case against him in that affair was dropped, the former president wanted to annul the seizure of these diaries, to stop them being used in other affairs that threatened him. The claim is that Azibert spoke to colleagues at the Cour de Cassation and consulted documents on the court intranet to find out the progress of the legal moves to get the diaries returned, and then reported back to Herzog.