Former French president and now conservative opposition party leader Nicolas Sarkozy was this week placed under investigation – a restrictive legal status one step short of being charged – for his role in the suspected illegal financing of his failed re-election campaign in 2012. Sarkozy is also under investigation for corruption in a separate case, and his hopes of a new bid for the presidency in 2017 now appear seriously damaged. But, as Fabrice Arfi details here, behind Sarkozy’s personal judicial woes are also those of no less than 32 of his close allies who have been either convicted or placed under investigation in a series of cases centring on corruption, money laundering, fraud and influence peddling.
The six people were volunteers in now-suspended trials for a new pharmaceutical drug performed in a laboratory in the western city of Rennes.
Last Friday a French court acquitted former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of aggravated pimping charges, relating to his regular participation in group sex orgies with prostitutes. It followed on the acquittal in May, in an unrelated case, of former conservative minister Éric Woerth of charges that he manipulated senile L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt to obtain cash sums, and of influence peddling to obtain a job for his wife in exchange for awarding Bettencourt’s wealth investment manager with the Légion d’honneur. The unsuccessful prosecutions prompted some conservatives, and their allies, to call – and not for the first time - for an end to the French system of examining magistrates, the independent judges who lead major crime investigations carried out in the field by police, and who alone have the ultimate decision on whether to press charges. But in this op-ed article, Mediapart’s legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan argues that such calls are a recurrent knee-jerk reaction on the part of those whose distaste for investigating judges is rooted in the latter’s independence in face of the rich and powerful, as demonstrated over several decades of French judicial history.
In a case that has gripped France, Maurice Agnelet, 76, is given 20-year jail term in his third trial for killing of his mistress Agnes Le Roux.