Nicolas Sarkozy, March 1, 2021. -
Michel Euler / AP / SIPA
Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced Monday to three years in prison, including one for "corruption and influence peddling" in the so-called "tapping" affair, a decision he will appeal.
It was the National Financial Prosecutor's Office that opened this investigation targeting the former President of the Republic in 2014.
Politicians, especially from the right and from the RN, criticize the PNF, which they accuse of playing a political role and of targeting the opposition.
Haro on the PNF.
Since the conviction of Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday, part of the opposition castigates the national financial prosecutor's office and accuses it of playing a political role.
The criticisms against this specialized public prosecutor's office, created in 2013 after the Cahuzac affair, are not new, but the judgment in the so-called “Paul Bismuth tapping” affair is reviving controversies.
The former President of the Republic, who will appeal his sentence to three years in prison, including one year, will be the guest of TF1's television news this Wednesday evening.
It was the PNF who, on February 26, 2014, opened a judicial investigation for “influence peddling”, leading to the indictment of Nicolas Sarkozy in July of the same year.
From November 23, 2020, the former head of state was tried by the 32nd correctional chamber of Paris, and it is its president, Christine Mée, who pronounced the sentence.
The PNF represented the prosecution at the trial, and had requested four years in prison, two of which were suspended.
Why is the PNF criticized?
The day after the verdict, Nicolas Sarkozy's lawyer, Jacqueline Laffont, considered that "the PNF was very skillful in his communication by instrumentalizing a fight which is a purely legal fight".
The right fired red balls.
"There will be a before and after this Sarkozy affair, which I still strongly link to the Fillon affair," said Senator Les Républicains des Bouches-du-Rhône Valérie Boyer on Tuesday evening.
"Without the PNF, I think Emmanuel Macron would not be President of the Republic," she adds, referring to the investigation targeting François Fillon opened by the PNF during the 2017 presidential campaign.
These criticisms are not new to the right: in the wake of the conviction of François Fillon precisely, in June 2020, the LR deputy of the Alpes-Maritimes Eric Ciotti had announced the tabling of a bill to remove it.
The patroness of the National Rally has also criticized the prosecution specializing in serious economic and financial delinquency.
"It has become the opposition prosecutor's office: each time an opposition politician has a problem, we entrust it to the PNF, this poses a problem of impartiality," she said on Tuesday. Europe 1. Referring to the Fillon affair and its own legal troubles, she affirmed that “justice did not behave in the same way with the candidates as with any other person, and clearly sought to directly influence on the election.
However, I do not want the magistrates to do the presidential primary.
Are these critics confined to the right?
Opinions vary depending on political trends.
The PS defends the PNF, born under the five-year term of François Hollande.
Former Minister Michel Sapin told
that his creation is "a great success".
For the deputy La République en Marche Didier Paris, “to say that the PNF is a political body is absolutely false”.
"Of the 600 to 700 proceedings in progress, only a few handfuls concern politicians," said the rapporteur of the commission of inquiry on the obstacles to the independence of the judiciary.
The parliamentarian from Côte-d'Or believes that the reactions of the right are "a form of political instrumentalisation, because the decision is not what she wanted".
The rebellious deputy Ugo Bernalicis observes that "the right has a defense strategy which is a strategy of rupture", calling into question the legitimacy of the investigation without speaking of the substance.
As for the criticisms on the independence of the PNF, the elected representative partly shares them.
“Whatever the PNF does, it will always be suspected [of partiality], because in France the prosecution is not independent from the executive.
As long as this issue is not resolved, there is potentially an explosive cocktail in entrusting a prosecutor with the investigation of politico-financial matters.
To remedy this, La France insoumise pleads for a major reform of the French justice system and, in the meantime, for an increase in the resources allocated to the PNF, which has 18 magistrates.
Are the attacks founded?
The question of the separation of powers, in this case between the judiciary and the executive, is regularly debated in France.
But this suspicion of a lack of judicial independence can apply to all prosecutors, and not only to the PNF, underlines Julie Gallois.
"Prosecutors are placed under the authority of the Keeper of the Seals, who is part of the executive," recalls the lecturer at the University of Lorraine, and member of the Observatory of public ethics.
“He can give them general directions, but does not have to give directions for business.
In addition, “the financial prosecutor is a magistrate specializing in business offenses in which it is often politicians who are involved”.
"And they are public figures, so the investigations are publicized, and all these elements can give the impression that the PNF is bitter against the policies", continues Julie Gallois.
A magnifying glass effect, in short, while the PNF has also launched investigations against companies, including Airbus, Veolia or Lycamobile.
Members of the majority are not spared either, and the prosecution opened an investigation into the employment of the daughters of socialist Bruno Le Roux in the Assembly in March 2017, under the five-year term of François Hollande.
In June 2018, the secretary general of the Elysée Alexis Kohler, close to Emmanuel Macron, was also the target of an investigation, which was closed in August 2019.
"The PNF is here a pretext: if it is deleted, that does not solve the problem," said Julie Gallois, who however emphasizes that several episodes may have fueled "controversies" on this floor: the testimony of the former prosecutor financial Eliane Houlette, and the inquiries requested by the Ministers of Justice Nicole Belloubet then Eric Dupond-Moretti, precisely on the subject of the wiretapping of Nicolas Sarkozy.
Critics should probably resurface next November, during the appeal trial of François Fillon, or even much earlier, in April and the presentation of the government's justice reform.
“Fortunately, we are no longer stifling business today!
», Rejoices Judge Van Ruymbeke
Wiretapping affair: Condemned, Nicolas Sarkozy remains an indestructible statue at Les Républicains