Europe 1 with AFP 3:45 p.m., December 5, 2022, modified at 3:46 p.m., December 5, 2022

This Monday opened the appeal trial of Nicolas Sarkozy for corruption and traffic.

With his lawyer Thierry Herzog, they are accused of having worked with the former magistrate Gilbert Azibert to influence a decision which greatly interested the former head of state about the Bettencourt affair. 

The appeal trial of Nicolas Sarkozy for corruption and influence peddling in the case of "wiretapping" opened Monday in Paris in the presence of the former president, retried with his historic lawyer Thierry Herzog and the ex-magistrate Gilbert Azibert.

Suit and black tie on a white shirt, the former head of state, 67, took his place alongside his two co-defendants in the crowded room of the court of appeal, which will retry them in this resounding case which dates back to 2014.

At first instance, following an electric trial where he denounced "infamy", the former president was sentenced on March 1, 2021 to three years' imprisonment, including one year, becoming the first head of the State of the Fifth Republic condemned to prison.

The same sentence was pronounced against his co-defendants, accompanied for Me Herzog, 67, of a prohibition to practice for five years, suspended by the appeal.

A boost for a prestigious position

This winding file has its origins in the telephone interceptions of conversations between Nicolas Sarkozy and Me Herzog in early 2014. At the time, the two telephones of the former strongman of the right were "connected" by the judges in charge of the investigation into suspicions of Libyan financing of his 2007 campaign, which today earned him a quadruple indictment.

The investigators then discovered the existence of a third line put into service on January 11, 2014 under the alias "Paul Bismuth" - named after a high school acquaintance of Me Herzog - and dedicated to exchanges between the ex-president and his lawyer and friend.



- Paul Bismuth case: why Nicolas Sarkozy finds himself facing justice

In the course of conversations that they think are safe from indiscreet ears, according to the prosecution, a pact of corruption takes shape with Gilbert Azibert, general counsel at the Court of Cassation, who would have used his influence against the promise of an intervention for his career.

This 75-year-old senior magistrate, now retired, is accused of having worked behind the scenes to influence a decision that was of great interest to the former head of state.

At the time, the Court of Cassation was seized of an appeal by Nicolas Sarkozy, who wanted to have the seizure of his presidential diaries canceled as part of the investigation for abuse of weakness on the heiress of L'Oréal Liliane Bettencourt .

Gilbert Azibert is suspected of having had knowledge, upstream, of confidential information and attempted to influence advisers participating in the deliberations.

In exchange, according to the prosecution, for a "boost" for a prestigious position in Monaco.

A "beam of serious, precise and concordant clues" 

Finally, Gilbert Azibert will not win the coveted post and the Court of Cassation will reject the appeal of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Whether he intervened with the Monegasque authorities remains debated.

According to the defense, this is proof that these accusations are "fantasy".

On the contrary, the criminal court had considered that the pact of corruption emerged from a "beam of serious, precise and concordant indications".

According to the law, it is not necessary that the consideration has been obtained, nor that the influence be real to characterize corruption or influence peddling.

After his conviction, the ex-president said he was the victim of a "deep injustice" and the right shouted haro at the National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF), which had entrusted the investigation to two investigating judges in early 2014 and whose impartiality had been called into question by the defense during the trial.

The investigation opened by the PNF did not reveal any "mole" 

The debates before the Court of Appeal, scheduled until December 16, promise to be less stormy but at least one gray area will remain.

At the end of February 2014, a change in tone in the exchanges between Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer had convinced the investigators that they knew they were being tapped – which they dispute.

A separate investigation, opened by the PNF, did not identify a possible "mole" who would have informed them, but it caused its own earthquake - the "fadettes" affair - on the sidelines of which the Keeper of the Seals Eric Dupond-Moretti was referred to the Court of Justice of the Republic.

At the end of the appeal trial of the "wiretapping", the decision will be put under deliberation for several weeks.

Another appointment awaits Nicolas Sarkozy in November and December 2023: the appeal trial of the Bygmalion case, in which he was sentenced in September 2021 to one year.