In a much-awaited decision, the Bordeaux court of appeal has ruled that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy should remain under investigation for exploiting L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt’s dementia to obtain funds for his 2007 election campaign. The court threw out Sarkozy’s appeal along with several others lodged by fellow suspects cited in the case, and which included a demand that the investigating magistrates should be removed from the case for reason of their alleged impartiality. The ruling announced on Tuesday means Sarkozy could now face trial on the charge of ‘abuse of weakness’, about which a decision is expected within weeks. Michel Deléan reports.
The publication by Mediapart of carefully selected contents of secretly taped conversations between L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and her close circle of financial and legal advisors led to a major political scandal and a judicial investigation in which former president Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under investigation for taking advantage of the billionaire’s frail mental health. Mediapart published only what it considered to be in the public interest, exposing evidence of political corruption, money laundering and interference by the executive powers in the proper workings of the judicial system. But now magistrates have sent for trial journalists from Mediapart and French weekly magazine Le Point on charges of breaching personal privacy laws by revealing the recordings, which were made by Bettencourt's butler. Michel Deléan reports.
The Bettencourt affair has reached an unprecedented scope among the many scandals that have rocked France in recent decades. As a judicial ruling ordering the censorship of Mediapart’s reporting of the scandal kicks in this Monday evening, Michel Deléan dresses a summary of the judicial investigations into the affair which, over the past three years, have exposed a bed of political corruption and influence peddling, a record back payment in taxes on assets secretly stashed abroad, not to mention the outrageous antics of a high-society cabal and the sordid exploitation of one of Europe’s wealthiest individuals.
As widely expected, the prosecutor in Bordeaux says that 'in the absence of evidence' there should be no further action taken against the former president over claims that he took advantage of the billionaire’s mental frailty to obtain funds for his 2007 election campaign. But, as Michel Deléan reports, the three examining magistrates in charge of this high-profile and controversial case could still decide to send Nicolas Sarkozy to stand trial.
The prosecution authorities say that former budget minister Eric Woerth has no case to answer over claims that he awarded Liliane Bettencourt's wealth manager a state honour in return for hiring his wife. Though as Mediapart's legal affairs expert Michel Deléan says, that does not necessarily mean that this is the end of the affair for a man who was one of Nicolas Sarkozy's closest political allies.
The long-running judicial investigations into suspected criminal activity surrounding the affairs of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, centred on money-laundering, illegal political funding, fraud, tax evasion, influence peddling and profiteering from the billionaire’s frail mental condition, finally came to a close on March 28th, exactly one week after former president Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under investigation in the case on the basis of “serious or concordant” evidence that he “abused” Bettencourt’s diminished mental faculties. Michel Deléan reports on the winding up of an investigation that will in all probability lead to one of the most spectacular corruption trials in recent French history, set against a backdrop of high-society drama and deep political intrigue.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy has been dramatically placed under formal investigation for allegedly abusing the mental frailty of billionaire L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. It followed a second round of questioning by judges in Bordeaux investigating the Bettencourt affair, which involves claims of political corruption and abuse of power. The news has caused fury on the Right, however, who insist that it is a politically-motivated decision coming just days after the resignation of budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac, who is also facing an investigation.
When Nicolas Sarkozy descended the central courthouse buildings in Bordeaux on the morning of November 22nd, entering an underground office to be questioned by magistrates leading investigations into the wide-ranging corruption allegations surrounding the affairs of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, the former French president faced a humbling moment in more ways than one. For not only did he find himself in exactly the same situation as his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, whose corruption-tainted years he had promised to break with, his interrogation over suspected illegal financing of his 2007 election campaign was carried out by members of the French judicial corps known as investigating magistrates which he had, when president, attempted to disband. Michel Deléan reports.
by Michel Deléan
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