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March 1, 2021, 8:46 a.m. EST

Former French president Sarkozy found guilty of corruption and influence peddling

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Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — A Paris court on Monday found Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, guilty of corruption and influence peddling and sentenced him to one year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence.

The 66-year-old politician, who was president from 2007 to 2012, was convicted for having tried to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about a legal action in which he was involved.

The court said Sarkozy will be entitled to request to be detained at home with an electronic bracelet.

Sarkozy was alleged to have tried to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about a legal action in which he was involved.

This is the first time in France’s modern history that a former president has gone on trial for corruption. Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was found guilty in 2011 of misuse of public money and given a two-year suspended prison sentence for actions during his time as Paris mayor.

Sarkozy’s co-defendants — his lawyer and longtime friend Thierry Herzog, 65, and now-retired magistrate Gilbert Azibert, 74 — also deny wrongdoing. Prosecutors said the three were engaged in a “corruption pact.”

“No pact has ever existed,” Sarkozy told the court. “Neither in my head, nor in reality.”

“I want to be cleared of that infamy,” he added.

The trial focused on phone conversations that took place in February 2014.

At the time, investigative judges had launched an inquiry into the financing of the 2007 presidential campaign. During the investigation they incidentally discovered that Sarkozy and Herzog were communicating via secret mobile phones registered to the alias “Paul Bismuth.”

Conversations wiretapped on these phones led prosecutors to suspect Sarkozy and Herzog of promising Azibert a job in Monaco in exchange for leaking information about another legal case, known by the name of France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

In one of these phone calls with Herzog, Sarkozy said of Azibert : “I’ll make him move up … I’ll help him.”

In another, Herzog reminded Sarkozy to “say a word” for Azibert during a trip to Monaco.

Legal proceedings against Sarkozy have been dropped in the Bettencourt case. Azibert never got the Monaco job.

Prosecutors have concluded, however, that the “clearly stated promise” constitutes in itself a corruption offense under French law, even if the promise wasn’t fulfilled.Sarkozy vigorously denies any malicious intention.

He told the court that his political life was all about “giving [people] a little help. That all it is, a little help.”

“I was 100 billion miles away from thinking we were doing something we did not have the right to do,” he said.

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