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France

Sarkozy breaks his silence over corruption charges in open letter

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-21

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has responded to the series of corruption allegations that have plagued him since leaving office in 2012, in a strongly worded open letter to be published in the pages of French daily Le Figaro on Friday.

In his lengthy letter, entitled “What I want to say to the French people,” Sarkozy says he long hesitated before speaking out.

“For the past two years, I have stuck with my decision remain silent and retire,” Sarkozy writes. “Yet I believe that it is my duty today to break this silence. If I do so, it is because the sacred principles of our Republic have been trampled with an as-yet-unknown violence and unprecedented lack of scruples.”

Since Sarkozy lost his re-election bid to now-President François Hollande in May 2012, he has been dogged by a string of corruption scandals, including allegations that he received illegal financing from both L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during his first presidential campaign in 2007.

Although Sarkozy has categorically denied any wrongdoing, the allegations against him have continued to multiply. Just this week, French investigative website Mediapart ran an article claiming that the former president sought to interfere with an investigation into the Bettencourt affair by peddling his influence and using well-placed informants within the justice system. The publication based the allegations on leaked recordings of wire-tapped conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer.

Sarkozy, a member of the right-wing UMP Party, expresses his indignation at the report in his letter, deriding the idea that Hollande’s Socialist government was unaware of the situation.

“Here, I learn from the press that all of my telephones have been tapped for the past eight months... That judges are listening to my discussions with French and foreign officials. That conversations with my lawyer have been unabashedly recorded,” Sarkozy says.

“I know, the justice minister [Christiane Taubira] was unaware, despite all the reports that she requested and received,” Sarkozy continues. “That the interior minister [Manuel Valls] was unaware, despite the dozens of police officers who were assigned to my case alone. Who are we kidding?”

The former president compares his situation with life in the former East Germany, when many lived in fear of the state’s repressive secret police, the Stasi.

“Even today, everyone who phones me must know they will be recorded. You’ve read correctly. This is not an excerpt from the marvellous film “The Lives of Others” about East Germany and the Stasi’s activities. These are not the actions of some world dictator taken against his opponents. This is France,” he says.

Over the past year, Sarkozy has taken tentative steps back into the spotlight, saying he might one day return to politics out of a sense of “duty” to France. In his letter, however, he rules out the idea that that day would be anytime soon.

“Contrary to what is written [in the daily papers], today I have no desire whatsoever to get involved in the political life of our country,” he says.

Yet Sarkozy does not altogether dismiss the idea of a political comeback.

“Finally, to those who fear my return [to politics], rest assured that the best way to avoid it would be by allowing me to live my life simply and quietly... basically like a ‘normal’ citizen!”
 

Date created : 2014-03-20

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