French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday that he “never committed the slightest act of corruption” and promised to go “all the way” to clear his name at his landmark grafting trial.
The 65-year-old right-winger, who led France from 2007 to 2012, is the country’s first modern head of state to appear on the bridge.
In one of several cases against him, he is accused of trying to bribe a judge with a plum pension in exchange for inside information about an investigation into his campaign finances.
He risks a sentence of up to ten years and a fine of 1 million euros ($ 1.2 million) if convicted of corruption and influence.
Sarkozy defended himself in court for the first time on Monday, saying he wanted the prospect of a fair hearing after being “dragged through mud for six years”.
“What did I do to deserve this?” asked Sarkozy, who wore a dark suit and a surgical mask under his nose and promised to “go all the way to the truth.”
The former head of state told the court, “Allow me to say solemnly … that I have never committed the slightest act of corruption. Never. Never abused my influence, alleged or genuine.”
Prosecutors say he and his lawyer Thierry Herzog tried to bribe Judge Gilbert Azibert in exchange for information about an investigation into allegations that Sarkozy had received illegal payments from late L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt during his 2007 presidential campaign.
The state’s case is based on wiretapping conversations between Herzog and Sarkozy.
Azibert was a senior adviser to the French Supreme Court of Appeal at the time. He never got the job in Monaco.
However, Sarkozy was cleared of all wrongdoing in the Bettencourt affair but still faces a number of legal issues.
He is still accused of receiving millions of euros in funding from Libyan dictator Moamer Gadhafi for his 2007 election campaign, and he is also accused of fraudulently overusing his failed 2012 re-election.
Only another French president, Sarkozy’s political mentor Jacques Chirac, was brought to justice after leaving office, but he was excused from attending his 2011 corruption trial due to ill health.
Chirac was given a two-year term due to the creation of ghost jobs at City Hall in Paris, which was used to fund his party when he was mayor of the city.
( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)