Case details: On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, Sarkozy was questioned for 15 hours before he was released from custody around midnight and put before a judge early Wednesday.
The judge placed him under formal investigation over the allegations stemming from phone taps placed on the former president from September 2013, specifically conversations recorded in January and February 2014. At that time, two judges were investigating whether Sarkozy received illegal funding for his 2007 election campaign from former Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
Telephone intercepts – including part of a transcript published by French investigative website Mediapart in March 2014 – revealed Sarkozy used a second mobile phone and an assumed name, Paul Bismuth, during conversations with his lawyer Thierry Herzog. Both men appeared to be informed about some of the ongoing legal cases against the former French head of state, including allegations that he solicited secret financing for his 2007 presidential campaign from France’s richest woman, L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.
In the current case, it was noteworthy that Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation for "active corruption". Until then, the case centred around influence-peddling and violation of investigation secrecy. The corruption offence carries a maximum prison term of 10 years and a fine of 150,000 euros.
Case details: The senior prosecutor’s name has appeared in the wiretap transcripts of phone conversations between Nicolas Sarkozy and Thierry Herzog. The former president’s lawyer repeatedly affirms that he has been in contact with "Gilbert", particularly in the context of the Liliane Bettencourt corruption case.
One of the conversations recorded by investigators reveals that Azibert expressed the wish to be appointed to a prestigious post in Monaco – to which, Herzog replies, "You're kidding, with the things you have done…”
During a search of Azibert’s home in March 2014, police found files of the Bettencourt case on his computer, notably documents to which he should not have had access.
Before being involved in the influence-peddling case, Azibert had a political career in the Justice Ministry.
The exact nature of the information obtained and transmitted between Azibert and Herzog is not known. It is also not known if the senior prosecutor intervened in other cases besides the Bettencourt scandal.
In addition, Azibert is also believed to have lobbied other judges more directly involved in proceedings against Sarkozy.
Case details: Thierry Herzog has been Sarkozy’s lawyer since 2006 during the Clearstream investigation, when former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was accused (but finally cleared) of plotting to discredit Sarkozy. Herzog is also Sarkozy’s old friend – the two met in the 1980s when Sarkozy and Herzog were starting their careers as lawyers.
The French lawyer was detained on June 30, 2014 in the current case. In March 2014, Herzog’s residence and offices were searched as part of ongoing corruption investigations.
Herzog is accused of providing Sarkozy with a second, secret mobile phone under a false name so that he could talk to “Paul Bismuth” (Sarkozy’s assumed name), since the two were aware that the former president’s regular cell phone was tapped.
The phone taps allegedly reveal that Herzog was in regular contact with senior prosecutor Gilbert Azibert, who was also detained on Monday, June 30, 2014.
Besides his close friendship with Sarkozy, Herzog is also known to be a criminal lawyer close to the former president’s UMP party, of which he is a member.
Herzog’s case is further complicated by the fact that, as a lawyer, he enjoys special protections for professional secrecy. Protections that may well be shattered due to allegations that he acquired a mobile phone under a false name. According to some legal experts, this action could be deemed to constitute an infraction.
Case details: This is the surprise appearance in the latest episode of Nicolas Sarkozy’s legal woes. Sassoust was detained on Monday, June 30, 2014, but has not been put under formal investigation. He is attached to the criminal division, which gives him more direct access to sensitive records on Sarkozy. Gilbert Azibert belongs to the civil division.
According to French investigative website Mediapart, Sassoust worked directly under Azibert at the Bordeaux appeals court between 2007 and 2008. Very little is known about Sassoust’s involvement in the current case. His name does not appear in the wiretap transcripts. Was Sassoust tapped by Gilbert for information on the investigations into Sarkozy? Or was he in direct contact with Sarkozy’s lawyer Thierry Herzog? These are questions likely to crop up in the course of the investigation.
The legal noose has been tightening around former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The former centre-right leader was placed under formal investigation on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, over suspected influence-peddling.
The day before, three other people – including Sarkozy’s lawyer and two prosecutors – were also placed under formal investigation, a step that may or may not lead to a trial.
This is the first time a former French president has been held in police custody, although ex-presidents have faced corruption charges before.
The 59-year-old former president has faced virtually non-stop legal battles since he left office, including a number of inquiries into corruption allegations and wrongdoings.
The current case relates to allegations that he used his influence to get illegal insider information on another investigation into illegal funding for his 2007 election campaign from the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi.
The influence-peddling allegations are based on phone intercepts of conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, amid suggestions that the former president had a network of informants into some of his legal cases.