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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-07

Judges last year ordered phone taps on former French president Nicolas Sarkozy as part of a corruption probe into allegations he received illegal campaign funding from Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, according to a leading French newspaper.

Left-leaning daily Le Monde reported on Friday that the phone taps were ordered in April 2013 by judges investigating allegations that Gaddafi had helped illegally finance Sarkozy’s successful 2007 presidential campaign.

Le Monde said that in December 2013 judges discovered that both Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, had bought second mobile phones for exclusively private communications.

As a result, fresh taps were then ordered. These recordings gave investigators the evidence necessary to launch a fresh probe, opened last week, on allegations of perverting the course of justice.

Insider information

The phone taps showed that Sarkozy and Herzog had discussed approaching a friendly judge in France’s highest court – the Court of Cassation – to obtain illegally the inside track on other corruption cases being built against him, notably that the former president had received illegal campaign funding from France’s richest woman, L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

The outcome could also influence another corruption case, centred around a 400-million-euro state payout to disgraced business tycoon Bernard Tapie.

According to Le Monde, investigators were astonished at the level of knowledge Sarkozy and Herzog had on these two cases. They also found evidence, according to Friday’s reports, that Court of Cassation magistrate Gilbert Azibert had handed over insider information in return for a cushy job posting in Monaco.

The Court of Cassation is due to rule next week on whether examining magistrates investigating the Bettencourt scandal acted illegally, notably in relation to the confiscation of Sarkozy's diaries.

Did Sarkozy rig a payout?

The court ruling on the handling of the Bettencourt case is crucial because it has the potential to wreck investigators' attempts to build a case against Sarkozy over the payout Tapie received from the state in connection with the collapse of the Credit Lyonnais bank.

Sarkozy is suspected of having rigged a dispute-settlement procedure to ensure Tapie got the cash as a thank-you for the tycoon supporting him in the 2007 election.

According to Le Monde, the diaries are crucial to the case against Sarkozy because they show how close he was to Tapie, who has several corruption convictions, including one for match-fixing when he was the boss of Olympique Marseille football club.

More explosive revelations

Interviewed by Le Monde on Friday, Herzog denied any corrupt dealings and insisted that the phone taps were politically motivated, calling them a “monstrous invasion of privacy” and a “violation of our right to defend ourselves in court”.

Friday’s explosive revelations come just days after news broke that a close aide had secretly recorded conversations between the former president, political aides and his wife Carla Bruni during his time in office.

Lawyers representing the couple filed an emergency injunction on Tuesday against further publication of leaked recordings that reveal embarrassing comments.

The tapes, recorded by political advisor Patrick Buisson, are thought to contain hundreds of hours of private conversations.

(FRANCE24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-03-07


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