from l’Humanité

Following the publication by Mediapart of the contents of phone calls between Nicolas Sarkozy and his counsel, the noose is tightening around the former French president. 
“Except if law eventually has the final say…” The confession is astounding, coming as it did from Thierry Herzog, the former head of state’s counsel [1] by Mediapart last Tuesday night marks a new development in what threatens to be the most scandalous affair of state in the Fifth Republic.

These sound tapes prove that the two men had a secret arrangement with Gilbert Azibert, a Court of Cassation magistrate, who kept them informed of the progress of the case concerning Nicolas Sarkozy’s datebooks. And so they suggest that the former president did set up a secret cabinet in order to neutralize the judges in charge of investigating the case against him, i.e. blatant influence peddling. The tapes reveal that in his capacity as Cassation Court magistrate, Gilbert Azibert (who tried to commit suicide last week) did approach three of his colleagues who had been selected to examine the validity of the legal investigation of the Bettencourt case [2]. On another case – Ghaddafi’s suspected financing of Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign – the tapes reveal the existence of a mole within the high administration. Yet another damning revelation concerns the grotesque staging set up by Sarkozy in the hope of outsmarting the wiretapping of which he knew he was a victim. In order to confound the magistrates, the former host of the Élysée staged false conversations on his official call line. Worse still, in one of the conversations, Thierry Herzog exulted over the information obtained through his informer, saying “That will keep the Bordeaux bastards (i.e. magistrates) busy.”

The scandal is rocking the Republic.

This rascally trick by a former president caught in the act speaks volumes about the nature of the Sarkozy clan‘s oligarchic rule, and their flouting of the basic rules of the State of Law, the first of which is the independence of justice. Prosecutors appointed against the advice of the magistrates’ high council, disciplinary measures, public prosecutors arbitrarily transferred – never has the independence of the public prosecutor’s office been so outrageously denied as it was under Sarkozy. So much so indeed that the European Court on Human Rights took France to task for “its prosecutors having no judicial authority in the sense of provision 5-3 of the European convention on human rights. (..) What is notably lacking in this respect is independence from the executive power,” the Court observed. And indeed Sarkozy even went boldly further when, in order to deal a final blow to the separation of powers, he decided that the Head of State may appoint the head of the Public Television Authority .

Will Nicolas Sarkozy deal the death blow to the Fifth Republic?

“The problem,” Judge Evelyne Sire-Marin (who is vice-president of the Paris county court) protested in a Slate.fr opinion column on March 1 “is that justice is always considered as undermining the political power.” And she went on to observe that the toxic relation between the judiciary and the executive is inscribed in French law. “If the Minister of Justice was at last definitively banned from the judiciary, by snapping the strap that binds the prosecution to him or her, if the judiciary police took their orders from the coroners, instead of the Home secretary, who, as is now the case, is informed of the progress of sensitive cases before the chancery, all suspicion of interference on the part of the executive power in judicial cases would vanish.”

The new majority now in office however decided against changing this. A decree by the Minister of Justice on January 31, 2014 even confirmed the previous practice by insisting that she be notified of all so-called “sensitive cases”. Although this decision contradicts the presidential candidate’s promises in 2012, it almost went unnoticed. And despite this affair of State having all the warning signals beeping, the Socialist government turned its back on reforming the Constitution last October.

Can Nicolas Sarkozy stand again in a presidential election?

“Once you’ve been president, you remain a president,” the former president said jubilantly during a visit to Charente-Maritime on January 30, in order to get the media buzzing about his candidacy in 2017.

Two months later, his electoral setup has lost momentum. His name is branded in no fewer than six judicial investigations: the Bettencourt affair, the financing of his 2007 campaign by Libya, the (exorbitant – T’s N) bills for polls paid on Élysée funds, the financing of Balladur’s presidential campaign in 1995 [3]. And there is more: the arbitration in the Tapie case [4], and lastly, this current suspicion of influence peddling.

Enough, no doubt, to cast aspersions on him within his own ranks. Will his tentative protests against the scapegoating of which he claims to be a victim in order to rally the Right behind him pull off the trick? That was the very trick on which his Italian peer Silvio Berlusconi risked his all, and the strategy did indeed bring him back to center stage…

[1]  The publication of their secret conversations of Sarkozy’s phone having been tapped by order of a magistrate.

[2]  in which Nicolas Sarkozy is suspected of having been given funds for his electoral campaign by a rich senile oligarch with her younger mentor’s complicity.

[3]  Nicolas Sarkozy then supported him against his party’s official candidate, namely Jacques Chirac. Further, it is suspected that funds were donated thanks to a bribe of 1,5 million francs “earned” for negotiating State business deals with Saudi Arabia (for the sale of frigates) and Pakistan (for submarines).

[4]  A court ruling stated that the business tycoon and politician was to have his losses compensated by a Treasury check of 403 million euro, by virtue of a previous sentence,

Original l’Humanité article: Délinquance en col blanc: le coupable était à.l’Intérieur..

by Maud Vergnol

White-collar crime the criminal was in the cabinet!

Translated Sunday 23 March 2014, by Isabelle Métral


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