PARIS: Voices from the past, some crackling and the outline, according to the prosecution, of a pact of corruption: conversations from 2014 between Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog were for the first time publicly broadcast on Tuesday, in the appeal trial of the “wiretapping” case.
Two small wall speakers and 24 sound files plunged the Paris Court of Appeal into the heart of this file of corruption and influence peddling: the exchanges between the ex-president and his historic lawyer on two unofficial lines opened in early January 2014 under the alias “Paul Bismuth”.
In the first instance, technical reasons had prevented their broadcast and the prospect of hearing them on Tuesday drained a large audience, subjected for the occasion to drastic measures. Each phone had to be turned off and put in a closed freezer bag, distributed at the entrance to the yard.
From these telephone exchanges emerges the great closeness between Mr. Sarkozy and his lawyer and long-time friend – “How are you, Thierry?”, “I kiss you, my Thierry” – and a little game between their “unofficial” telephone lines and official.
“Answer on your phone (official, editor’s note), because … we have the impression of having a conversation”, slips Mr. Sarkozy on February 1 on the “Bismuth” line. “Okay, I answer now? Uh… What are we talking about?” asks his lawyer. “Call me back saying, you called me,” adds the ex-president.
On the merits, his concern about an appeal that he then filed before the Court of Cassation, in order to invalidate the seizure of his presidential diaries in the context of the Bettencourt affair, is apparent.
Also warned in this case, Gilbert Azibert, then general counsel at the Court of Cassation, would have succeeded in obtaining a confidential opinion in this case and seems to be trying to influence the deliberations in a way favorable to the former president, according to what reports on the phone Me Herzog.
“I was amazed”
The former head of state is following all this closely. “Gilbert, there is no news”?”, “We still have no news from the Court of Cassation?”, he asks several times to his lawyer who praises, in return, the interventions of Mr. Azibert in this file.
“Here … He worked huh”, he summarizes on January 29.
A few days later, the lawyer reports to the ex-president that Mr. Azibert covets a position in the judicial hierarchy in Monaco.
“He said to me: I dare not ask. Maybe I should have a helping hand. Well, I told him you are kidding with what you are doing”, says Me Herzog.
“No, don’t worry, tell him,” replies Nicolas Sarkozy. “Call him today and say I’ll take care of it because I’m going to Monaco.” A commitment he will reiterate on February 25 while he is visiting the Principality. “You can tell him that, at noon, I will do the process”.
The next day, wiretaps reveal a radical change, both in substance and form: Nicolas Sarkozy calls his lawyer, this time using one of his official telephones; his tone loses spontaneity and he goes back on his promise to use his networks to support Mr. Azibert.
“So, I told you I would. And then I thought, it’s going to sound very weird,” he says.
According to investigators, this sudden reversal is linked to the fact that Mr. Sarkozy and his lawyer learned that the “Bismuth” line was also tapped, but a parallel investigation failed to identify a possible mole.
One certainty: Mr. Azibert did not get the job in Monaco and the Court of Cassation rejected Mr. Sarkozy’s appeal. According to the defendants, this is proof that the corruption pact is only a “fantasy”.
At the end of the day, the floor returned to Nicolas Sarkozy. The ex-president advanced to the bar to say all the bad things he thought about these interceptions, which he said he was listening to “for the first time”.
“The confidentiality between a lawyer and his client, we can say goodbye to him,” he thundered. “Listening to this for two hours, I was amazed,” he also said, adding, “I physically felt discomfort.”
End of the debates scheduled for December 16.
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