Friday 19 January 2018

Sarkozy phone-taps ruled legal

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy denies any wrongdoing (AP)
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy denies any wrongdoing (AP)

The Paris appeals court has ruled that investigating judges did not break any laws when they tapped conversations between former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer, in connection with a probe into past campaign financing.

The decision is a new blow to the conservative opposition leader as he eyes a 2017 presidential bid, because it allows investigations to resume.

Mr Sarkozy is under preliminary charges for active corruption and influence-peddling based on information gleaned from the phone taps.

It is among several legal cases he has faced since losing the presidency to Francois Hollande in 2012 - but it is the case that has the greatest chance of seeing Mr Sarkozy sent to trial.

Mr Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog had protested over the phone-taps, saying they breached lawyer-client privilege and that the investigating judges did not get proper authorisation.

But the appeals court ruled in favour of investigators, according to Mr Herzog's lawyer, Paul-Albert Iweins.

The court found that wire-tapping on different phone lines used by Mr Sarkozy under his own name and under the false identity of "Paul Bismuth" had been legally carried out, except for one minor phone line.

Lawyers said Mr Sarkozy and Mr Herzog would appeal to France's top court, the Cour de Cassation.

"The fight for the confidentiality of communications between a lawyer and client is not just Thierry Herzog's fight, it is the fight of all lawyers," Mr Iweins said.

Investigators tapped the phones in 2013-2014 as part of a probe into illegal financing of Mr Sarkozy's 2007 presidential campaign. By chance, they discovered an alleged influence-peddling plot by Mr Sarkozy and Mr Herzog as they tried to obtain confidential information about the financing probe.

That discovery prompted a new, separate investigation. Today's ruling means that investigation can now resume after a seven-month suspension.

The charge of "active corruption" is graver than others that Mr Sarkozy has faced. It means a suspect is believed to have actively orchestrated corrupt acts, not just participated in them. A conviction could draw a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Mr Sarkozy is also facing a corruption investigation into suspicions that his 2007 presidential campaign received illegal funding from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Mr Sarkozy has denied any wrongdoing.

Press Association

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