Paris (AFP)

Nicolas Sarkozy will he be the second former president sentenced under the Fifth Republic after Jacques Chirac?

The Paris Criminal Court delivers its judgment on Monday in the so-called "eavesdropping" case, after heavy requisitions in December.

The president of the 32nd chamber, Christine Mée, must start reading her decision from 1:30 p.m. and say whether the former head of state is found guilty of the offenses of corruption and influence peddling, which he contests .

On December 8, the National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) demanded against the 66-year-old ex-president four years' imprisonment, two of which were firm, considering that the presidential image had been "damaged" by this affair with "devastating effects" .

Whatever the court's decision, it will be historic, more than nine years after Jacques Chirac was sentenced to two years in prison in the case of fictitious jobs in the city of Paris.

This decision will also be crucial for Nicolas Sarkozy, who faces a second trial on March 17, in the "Bygmalion" affair, relating to the costs of his 2012 presidential campaign.

Withdrawn from politics since 2016 but still very popular on the right, a year before the next presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy firmly demanded at the helm to be "washed away from this infamy".

- "I bring it up" -

The case of "eavesdropping" dates back to 2014. At that time, the use of WhatsApp and other encrypted messaging was not widespread, highlighted the former head of state.

As part of the investigation into the suspicions of Libyan financing of his 2007 presidential campaign - which has since earned him a quadruple indictment - the judges discover that Nicolas Sarkozy is using a secret telephone line, opened under the alias of "Paul Bismuth", to communicate with his lawyer Thierry Herzog.

About ten of their conversations were transcribed.

They prove according to the accusation that a "corruption pact" was concluded between Nicolas Sarkozy, his lawyer and the former high magistrate Gilbert Azibert.

For the prosecution, Gilbert Azibert transmitted, via Thierry Herzog, information covered by secrecy and tried to influence a cassation appeal formed by Nicolas Sarkozy, on the sidelines of the Bettencourt affair.

In exchange, the latter agreed to support the candidacy of the magistrate, then Advocate General in a civil chamber of the highest jurisdiction, for a prestigious position in Monaco.

"He worked eh!"

notably launches Me Herzog in one of the exchanges read at the hearing.

"Me, I bring it up," said Nicolas Sarkozy another day.

The same sentence - four years of imprisonment including two firm - was required against the three defendants, accompanied for Me Herzog with a request for professional prohibition of five years.

- "Fantasies" -

These conversations were only "chatter between friends", argued the defense lawyers, who ridiculed the "fantasies", "assumptions" and "lawsuits" of the prosecution.

Faced with a "desert of evidence", they pleaded in unison for the release of the defendants, who face ten years in prison and a million euros fine.

Asked by AFP, they did not wish to speak before the deliberation.

In court, they argued that in the end, Nicolas Sarkozy did not succeed before the Court of Cassation and that Gilbert Azibert never had a post in Monaco.

According to the law, however, it is not necessary for the consideration to have been obtained, nor for the influence to be real, to characterize the offenses of corruption and influence peddling.

Throughout the trial, in a stormy atmosphere, the defense shelled a "trash" file, demanding the cancellation of the entire procedure, based according to it on "illegal" wiretapping because violating the secrecy of exchanges between a lawyer and his client.

The defendants' lawyers also torpedoed a parallel preliminary investigation conducted by the PNF.

Aiming to identify a possible mole having been able to inform Thierry Herzog in 2014 that the Bismuth line was "connected", it led to their detailed telephone bills ("fadettes") being peeled.

It was closed almost six years after it opened.

Three magistrates of the financial prosecutor's office, in particular his former head Eliane Houlette, have been targeted since September by an administrative investigation, the conclusions of which are imminent.

In this tense context, the current boss of the PNF, Jean-François Bohnert, had come in person on the day of the indictment to defend the institution just created when the "tapping" affair broke out, and to assure: "No one here does not seek revenge on a former President of the Republic ".

© 2021 AFP