Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday complained of six years of “slander” in his first remarks to the court at his landmark for corruption.
Sarkozy became France’s first modern head of state to appear in the quay last week, prosecuting allegations of corruption and influence.
The 65-year-old right-winger, who is also facing trials in two other investigations, is accused of offering Judge Gilbert Azibert a plum pension job in exchange for inside information about an investigation into his campaign finances.
“I do not accept any of the defamation that has been leveled against me for the past six years,” the French leader told the Paris Criminal Court from 2007 to 2012.
He faces a sentence of up to ten years and a fine of one million euros ($ 1.2 million) if convicted.
Azibert and Sarkozy’s lawyer Thierry Herzog are also on trial.
Sarkozy has struggled with a number of investigations since losing his immunity from prosecution following his failed 2012 re-election campaign.
Try to postpone the hearings
The trial in his first trial began on Monday after the court rejected a request from Azibert’s lawyers to postpone it for medical reasons.
His defense claimed that the 73-year-old had health problems that made public appearances risky during the Covid-19 outbreak.
However, a medical examination decided by the court determined that he was fit enough to take part in his trial.
Prosecutors say Sarkozy and Herzog tried to bribe Azibert with a job in Monaco, in exchange for information about an investigation into allegations that Sarkozy received illegal payments from the late L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt during her 2007 presidential campaign.
Intercepted conversations between Herzog and Sarkozy – who used a secret phone bought under the alias “Paul Bismuth” – allegedly reveal that the two men are planning to get Azibert to help lead the investigation.
Azibert was a senior adviser to France’s highest court of appeal at the time. He never got the job in Monaco.
Money from Libya?
However, Sarkozy cleared up any wrongdoing in the Bettencourt affair.
But investigators are still investigating allegations that he received millions of euros in funding from Libyan dictator Moamer Gadhafi against his 2007 election campaign, and he is also accused of fraudulently overpaying for the 2012 race.
Only another French president, Sarkozy’s political mentor Jacques Chirac, has been brought to justice after leaving office, although he was excused from participating in his 2011 corruption scandal due to ill health.
He was given a two-year term due to the creation of ghost jobs at the city hall in Paris that was used to fund his party when he was the city mayor.