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France

Tapes reveal presidential aide spied on Sarkozy

© AFP | File pictures of Nicolas Sarkozy and Patrick Buisson

Video by Mark THOMPSON

Text by Thomas HUBERT

Latest update : 2014-03-06

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is reportedly “furious” after embarrassing secret recordings made by a close aide during his term in office were leaked to the press.

The weekly newspaper “Le Canard Enchaîné” and the news website “Atlantico” on Wednesday March 5, 2014 published extracts from the “hundreds of hours” of secret audio recordings made by Patrick Buisson during Sarkozy’s presidential term between 2007 and 2012.

One conversation between the president and his closest advisors focuses on the 2011 cabinet reshuffle, in which Defence Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie was fired because of her closeness to the recently deposed Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. “I accepted a resignation letter from her, but nobody will buy that,” Sarkozy says.

The president considers replacing her with Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, but abandons the idea because he is at the time under investigation for racist remarks: “What if the defence minister was convicted of racist slur?” they speculate.

Presidential chief of staff Claude Guéant becomes interior minister in the reshuffle. In another recording, Buisson expresses concern at his departure from the Élysée Palace at a time when Sarkozy was facing a corruption investigation: “The good thing about Guéant is that he had developed some knowledge of the issues [Editors note: referring to the investigation] in the past three months, especially the cases before the prosecutors’ office. He was getting involved.”

Buisson and Sarkozy are under investigation for allegedly buying a series of opinion polls from friend’s companies with taxpayers’ money in violation of government procurement regulations.

Sarkozy “furious”

The tapes lay bare the backroom manoeuvring and cynical comments targeting dozens of people in power circles, from first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who said her income made poorly-paid Sarkozy “a kept man”, to government ministers – many of whom presidential aides caught on the recordings described as “morons”.

One of them, former Education Minister Xavier Darcos, told the “Canard Enchaîné”: “When you see the results achieved by those backroom advisors, there is pride in doing without their praise.”

The newspaper reported that Sarkozy was “furious” but refused to comment any further.
Buisson’s lawyer confirmed on Tuesday that the tapes were authentic and intended for note-taking purposes.

Their publication have prompted angry reactions from the ranks of Sarkozy’s UMP party, already hit by a series of scandals less than three weeks before municipal elections.
Media reports alleged last week that party chairman Jean-François Copé allowed companies owned by his friends to overcharge the UMP during the 2012 electoral campaign, which he has denied.

Buisson trained as a historian and started his career as a journalist for the far-right newspaper “Minute”. He describes himself as a “monarchist” in one of the tapes and is widely seen as the mastermind of Sarkozy’s staunchly conservative 2012 presidential campaign.

Date created : 2014-03-05

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