International Law

Sarkozy detained on suspicion of interfering with French investigation into financial corruption


Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011. Frederic Legrand /

Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s former president, was detained for questioning Tuesday by French anticorruption investigators. At issue was whether Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog improperly tried to get information about an ongoing investigation into Sarkozy’s campaign finances, according to the New York Times.

The Times reports that law enforcement focused on the suspicion that magistrate Gilbert Azibert served as Sarkozy’s informant. In exchange, it has been reported, Azibert told the former president he’d like a post in Monaco.

“Abuse of power in seeking to gain a favorable decision from a public authority or administration” is punishable under French criminal law by five years in prison and a 500,000 euro fine, according to the Times. It would also be considered a breach of judicial secrecy.

The financial corruption case itself has centered on allegations that Sarkozy’s 2007 political campaign received about $68 million in illegal funds from Col. Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, and about whether 2007 campaign donations from France’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt, were improper.

Sarkozy has denied the allegations and called them politically motivated, the article states.

Authorities tapped Sarkozy and Herzog’s phones for a year, reports the Times. Sarkozy may be the first former president in history to have had his private conversations tapped by investigators, says the newspaper. Although the phone tapping was not illegal in France, there are questions about whether the tactic violated attorney-client privilege, the Times notes.

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