Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been ordered to stand trial on charges of corruption and influence peddling involving a judge from whom he sought information about an investigation, a legal source told AFP on Thursday.
Sarkozy’s lawyer Thierry Herzog and former judge Gilbert Azibert must also stand trial in the case dating back to 2014, the source said, confirming a report in French daily Le Monde.
According to prosecutors, Sarkozy’s lawyer tried to get information from Azibert over the status of a campaign financing investigation.
In that inquiry, Sarkozy was suspected of accepting illicit payments from the L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.
He was cleared in 2013 of taking advantage of the elderly woman, but wiretaps on Sarkozy’s phone suggested he had discussed with Herzog giving Azibert, a magistrate from a top appeals court, a job in Monaco in exchange for information on the Bettencourt case.
Sarkozy has argued that the job never materialised, meaning he is not guilty of anything, but investigators believe the deal fell through because the former president and his lawyer learned their phones were being tapped.
Herzog and Azibert are also facing charges of violation of confidentiality.
The decision is the latest legal problem for Sarkozy, whose attempt to mount a comeback for the presidency failed in November 2016, when he could not secure the backing of his own party during primaries.
Last week the former president, who already faces a trial for illegal campaign financing in his 2012 re-election campaign, was charged with accepting millions of euros in funding from late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
An associate of French politician Nicolas Sarkozy was granted bail on Wednesday by a British court, after his arrest on charges linked to a probe into financing the ex-president’s election campaign.
French businessman Alexandre Djouhri appeared at a London court after being detained on Sunday at Heathrow airport on a European arrest warrant.
The judge ordered a £1 million (1.1 million euro, £1.4 million) bail be paid to secure the 58-year-old’s release.
Wearing a dark suit with a white shirt, frequently tightening the knot on his dark blue tie, Djouhri was ordered to stay at his daughter’s home in the British capital.
Embroiled in an investigation into the suspected Libyan financing of Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign, he has refused to respond to summons for questioning in Paris.
Well known among France’s rightwing political establishment, Djouhri is facing fraud and money-laundering charges and will next appear in court for an extradition hearing.
The Swiss resident has been a focus of the inquiry opened in 2013 by judges investigating claims by former Libyan ruler Moamer Kadhafi and his son Seif al-Islam that they provided funds for Sarkozy’s election effort.
French investigators are examining Djouhri’s alleged involvement in the 2009 sale of a villa in the French Alps, for around 10 million euros, to a Libya investment fund managed by Bashir Saleh.
Djouhri is suspected of being the true owner of the villa, which was sold at a “very inflated” price, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.
Both men failed to heed summons for questioning issued by the anti-corruption investigators in September 2016.