Nicolas Sarkozy 'had his phone tapped by judges investigating Muammar Gaddafi link' - Europe - World - The Independent

Nicolas Sarkozy 'had his phone tapped by judges investigating Muammar Gaddafi link'

Revelations in ‘Le Monde’ cause outrage on the Right, but a judge is now suspected of passing information to the Sarkozy clan

France was confronted with a potentially explosive state scandal when it emerged that telephones belonging to former President Nicolas Sarkozy had been bugged by judges investigating his alleged financial links with the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

The scandal broke just two days after it emerged that dozens of President Sarkozy’s private conversations while in office had been recorded by a right-wing political adviser.

The first affair, dubbed “Sarkotapes”, was embarrassing politically and personally for Mr Sarkozy. The second scandal, exposed yesterday by the newspaper Le Monde, could have far-reaching political, legal and constitutional implications for both Mr Sarkozy and the present centre-left French government.

One Sarkozy supporter accused the government yesterday of “quasi-Soviet” behaviour – even though actions by investigating magistrates are independent of political control. According to Le Monde, the judicial bugging of Mr Sarkozy’s phone – which started in April last year – uncovered alleged attempts by the former President and his lawyer to obtain secret information on the inner workings of France’s highest appeal court, the Cour de Cassation.

Le Monde said that investigators suspect that in return for inside information, Mr Sarkozy tried to obtain a gilded retirement post in Monaco for one of the most senior judges in the court.

On Thursday, police raided the offices and home of Mr Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, and the chambers within the Cour de Cassation of Gilbert Azibert, the judge suspected of passing information to the Sarkozy clan.

A new investigation has been launched, implicitly targeting Mr Sarkozy, into alleged “influence peddling” and “breach of judicial secrecy”.

Supporters of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy claim left-wing ‘persecution’ of him, but investigations continue into his financial wrong-doing and attempts to influence the judiciary Supporters of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy claim left-wing ‘persecution’ of him, but investigations continue into his financial wrong-doing and attempts to influence the judiciary
Several other members of the appeal court could face questioning, Le Monde said. Two former interior ministers, both close associates of Mr Sarkozy, have also had their phones bugged by investigating magistrates.

The appeal court is due to make a ruling next week which could decide the outcome of several investigations into alleged financial wrong-doing or favouritism by Mr Sarkozy or his associates before and during his period in the Elysée Palace from 2007 to 2012.

There is no known precedent for the bugging of the telephone of a former French head of state. Both left- and right-wing politicians spoke today – for different reasons – of a “state scandal”.

Left-wingers said that the Le Monde story had lifted the veil on systematic efforts by Mr Sarkozy to interfere with the workings of the justice system, both during and after his presidency.

Mr Sarkozy’s lawyer and his supporters accused the left-wing government of trampling on constitutional freedoms to “persecute” the former President for political reasons.

The ex-President’s lawyer, Mr Herzog – whose own phones were also bugged – said: “This pseudo-accusation of influence-peddling is indeed a state scandal but not in the way it is being presented… I will present proof, when the time is right, that this business is all political.”

President Sarkozy is officially retired from politics but he has hinted in recent months that he hopes to reclaim the presidency in 2017. His possible resurrection is threatened, however, by interlinked judicial investigations into alleged financial wrong-doing before and during his term of office.

These range from the rather weakly founded allegation that his 2007 presidential campaign was partially funded by Mr Gaddafi, to suggestions that Mr Sarkozy and close associates engineered an unjustified €400m state compensation payment to the disgraced tycoon Bernard Tapie.

The bugging of Mr Sarkozy’s phone was ordered in April last year, according to Le Monde, by two judges, Serge Tournaire et René Grouman, who are investigating the Libyan allegations. The judges became suspicious that Mr Sarkozy knew about the bugging when he became uncharacteristically monosyllabic on the phone. They discovered in December last year that he had a second mobile phone under a false name – and bugged that too.

Surveillance of this second phone appears to have generated no information on the Libyan allegations, which have failed to stand up. However, says Le Monde, the bugging did reveal alleged attempts by Mr Sarkozy and associates to obtain secret, inside information from the Cour de Cassation on other investigations in which he is involved.

Under French law, inquiries by examining magistrates, or “juges d’investigation”, are independent and not supposed to be influenced by the government of the day. Investigating judges have considerable powers of their own but the decision to bug Mr Sarkozy and his clan would have had to be approved by another judge.

Officially, the government has no role in such matters but “sensitive” investigation is often referred to the Justice Ministry. Sarkozy supporters yesterday exploited this grey area in French law, and practice, to suggest that the bugging was part of an “oppressive” and “quasi-Soviet” pattern of behaviour by the administration of President François Hollande.

Other Sarkozy supporters said the bugging proved there was a judicial conspiracy against the ex-President. Thierry Mariani, a former Sarkozy minister, said: “There are some magistrates who are determined to get Nicolas Sarkozy. Although the [Libyan allegation] is going nowhere, they come up with this new stuff… This persecution is shocking.”

The police raids this week on the offices of Mr Sarkozy’s lawyer and the Cour de Cassation were ordered jointly by the judges investigating the Libya and Tapie allegations. The court is expected to decide next week whether to allow all the different inquiries to make use of Mr Sarkozy’s presidential diaries, originally seized as part of another investigation now dropped.

The bugging revelations follow closely on the heels of another scandal: the publication this week of the transcripts and tapes of four private conversations between Mr Sarkozy and advisers while he was President in 2011. The tapes were recorded, against the Elysée rules, by the political adviser, Patrick Buisson.

Both Mr Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni have started a legal action for invasion of privacy. Although the tapes contain nothing especially damaging, scores of others are believed to exist.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Newcastle: Our clients are looking for...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

Supply teachers needed- Worthing!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Supply teachers needed for va...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week