by Meghana Paturu ’22
Published Mar. 19th, 2021
On March 1, 2021, a Paris court found former French President Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence peddling. After months of deep investigations, the judge sentenced Sarkozy to one full year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence. Even though Sarkozy’s case officially began in December of 2020, several allegations of fraud and crime have continued to tear down Sarkozy’s political reputation for years.
Toward the end of 2014, investigators found evidence of illegal activity from the phones belonging to Sarkozy and his lawyer, Herzog. Specifically, they discovered that the two men promised senior magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, a prestigious position in Monaco in exchange for confidential information about an ongoing inquiry regarding claims that he accepted illegal payments for his successful 2007 presidential campaign.
In another investigation that opened up in 2012, Sarkozy was also accused of taking millions from former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to finance his campaign. Regardless of concrete information for illegal campaign financing, Sarkozy has refused to plead guilty and deny wrongdoings.
Despite all the accusations against him, several being complaints of bribery and corruption, Sarkozy continues to remain very popular with right-wing French voters. In fact, his memoir, The Time of Storms, was a bestseller for weeks. However, there are many French politicians and citizens who are still not satisfied with the court ruling.
When asked for her reaction to the sentence, Clare Daly, a member from the European Parliament from Ireland, told the Parliament Magazine: “Though it’s obviously welcome to see justice being done, his sentence means he will likely never spend a day in prison, and that amounts to not much more than being sentenced to the same kind of year everyone has had lockdown. In this case it does seem that there’s one rule for the rich and influential, and another for everyone else.”
For centuries, the French government has been confronted by many conflicts involving illegal activity by government officials and political authorities. However, the trial marked the first time in the history of France that a former president has gone on trial for illegal activity.
Amidst the growing piles of evidence against Sarkozy, the former French president will face another trial later in March along with thirteen other people on charges of the illegal financing of his 2012 presidential campaign. Although it is expected that Sarkozy will appeal against his conviction, the trial itself will dismantle his hopes of running in France’s presidential election next year.