- French Supreme Court rules most wiretap evidence is legitimate
- French judges say probe didn’t break procedural rules
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy risks having to stand trial after he lost a bid Tuesday to block a corruption probe that threatens to upend his political ambitions.
France’s Supreme Court ruled the evidence collected by wiretapping Sarkozy can legitimately be used as part of the probe into an alleged attempt by the former French president to influence and corrupt high-ranking judges to gain inside information. Judges at the Cour de Cassation dismissed Sarkozy’s appeal.
“This means the procedure is now back in the hands of the investigating judges and it’s up to them to decide whether he should face trial,” Patrice Spinosi, Sarkozy’s lawyer, told reporters in Paris.
Sarkozy, who now leads the French political party Les Republicans, was charged with influence peddling in 2014 following a day of interrogation by a special team of anti-corruption magistrates. The probe is centered on whether some judges were keeping Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog informed about probes into the former president’s campaign financing.
Parisian investigative judges began tapping Sarkozy’s phone in 2013 as part of an probe into allegations of illegal funding by the regime of Libya’s former leader Muammar Qaddafi ahead of the Frenchman’s election in May 2007. Sarkozy was then found to be using a cell phone under the name of Paul Bismuth to have discussions with Herzog.
Spinosi said he is disappointed with the ruling and is considering an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.
“Cleary this is a big blow to the rights of the defense, as the judges OK’d the wiretapping of a conversation between a person and his lawyer based on the fact that the phone line was set up using an assumed name,” Spinosi said.
Influence peddling and corruption each carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 1 million euros ($1.1 million) under French law. Judges also have the ability to bar anyone found guilty from public office for as long as a decade.
Sarkozy’s legal woes increased last month after he was charged, in a separate investigation, with illegal campaign financing in relation to his 2012 re-election bid. In this case, judges are investigating possible improper use of Sarkozy’s campaign funds as well as kick-backs involving Bygmalion, a communications company hired to organize his rallies during the 2012 election fight.