Sarkozy's lawyer and top judge questioned over 'influence peddling' claims


Former president Nicolas Sarkozy's lawyer and close friend Thierry Herzog and senior judge Gilbert Azibert were questioned in police custody on Monday 30th June as part of an ongoing investigation into the alleged trading of confidential judicial information in return for political favours. In particular, Azibert is suspected of having passed on information about a part of the Bettencourt affair in the hope that he would be favoured in his application for a top judicial post in Monaco. A third man, an advocate general at France's top appeal court which was handling the Bettencourt affair, was also being questioned. As Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan reports, the questioning in custody of such senior figures will send shock waves through the judicial establishment. On the evening of Tuesday July 1st, Herzog and Azibert appeared before the judges carrying out the probe and were placed under formal investigation.

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It is a legal earthquake for both France's judicial system and the network of friends and confidants around former president Nicolas Sarkozy. On the morning of Monday June 30th senior judge Gilbert Azibert, aged 67, was taken in for questioning in Bordeaux over his alleged role in the Bettencourt affair. Sarkozy's close friend and lawyer Thierry Herzog was also in police custody at the offices of the fraud squad the Office central de lutte contre la corruption et les infractions financières et fiscales (OCLCIFF) based at Nanterre, west of Paris. A third man, Patrick Sassoust, the advocate general or state prosecutor at the criminal division of France's top appeal court the Cour de cassation – the Court of Cassation - was also being questioned in custody.