Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 July 2019

Nicolas Sarkozy returns to limelight amid corruption probes

The former French president’s latest book is set to avoid his alleged campaign frauds

Former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy is set to release a book which concludes with the start of his presidency. AFP
Former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy is set to release a book which concludes with the start of his presidency. AFP

Amid corruption claims and looming criminal trials, Nicolas Sarkozy returns to the public stage on Thursday with a new book that charts his rise to power but sidesteps the controversies that have dogged his post-presidential years.

Mr Sarkozy – the leader of France from 2007 to 2012 – promised to reveal never-told episodes from his life but indicated that the 368-page book will avoid the controversies that will land him in a French courtroom in the coming months.

The book, Passions, ends on the day that Mr Sarkozy entered the Elysee palace for the first time in 2007, according to French media reports.

His single term was overshadowed by the global financial crisis and he lost in his re-election bid in 2012 to left-wing rival Francois Hollande.

After the defeat he promised the French public that “you won’t hear about me anymore”, a pledge that has dramatically unravelled as he prepares become the first former French president to appear in court to face corruption charges.

The most serious allegation is that his 2007 run for the presidency was secretly bankrolled by the Libyan regime of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, leading to Mr Sarkozy being charged in March 2018 with corruption and illegal campaign financing.

The former president will first stand trial over allegations that he improperly sought information from a judge about an investigation into securing alleged illicit campaign funds for the 2007 election from a wealthy heiress.

He faces another trial over claims that invoices were faked to hide lavish payments on his unsuccessful 2012 run for re-election.

A number of Mr Sarkozy's aides and associates are also accused over the Libyan affair, including French-Algerian businessman Alexandre Djouhri.

Mr Djouhr is living in London under curfew while French authorities pursue his extradition for alleged fraud, money laundering and bribery after being accused of acting as a middle man between Mr Sarkozy’s aides and Libya.

His extradition case heard evidence from a French lawyer who claimed that elements of the legal profession were intensely hostile towards Mr Sarkozy, and claimed that his photo appeared on a pinboard known as the “wall of schmucks” at the headquarters of a judicial representative body.

A British judge dismissed allegations that the judiciary used procedures to “oppress or unfairly prejudice” Mr Djouhri and ruled that he should be extradited. The businessman is appealing the ruling.

None of the pre-release publicity for Mr Sarkozy’s book focuses on the alleged illicit funding arrangements. "It's a very personal book of memories,” he told the Journal du Dimanche. “I'm talking about politics, of course, but I'm also talking about episodes of my life that I have never told.”

The newspaper said that the book will deal with only one political scandal that resulted in a criminal trial, the so-called Clearstream affair, in which Mr Sarkozy was the victim of a political smear campaign.

Mr Sarkozy’s name had appeared in a list of senior politicians and businessmen who allegedly received bribes from arms sales in the run-up to the 2007 election. The list was later revealed to have been fake.

The Journal cited the book’s cover in which Mr Sarkozy may have alluded to his political travails. “I had my share of professional and personal failures,” he said. “I even feel that I have sometimes had to pay a high price for success and notoriety, but never, ever, have I experienced boredom.”

Former aides of Mr Sarkozy were questioned earlier this month over a French corruption investigation into the awarding of the 2022 Fifa World Cup to Qatar.

Before the December 2010 vote, Mr Sarkozy hosted a meeting that brought together Michel Platini, the former head of European soccer governing body UEFA, and then crown prince of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Mr Platini – who was also questioned before being released without charge - has long insisted that the meeting did not influence his vote for Qatar.

The emirate beat the long-favoured US bid for the right to stage the tournament despite the lack of existing infrastructure and searing summer heat.

The following year, Qatar bought Paris Saint-Germain football club and started spending heavily on recruiting star players. Mr Sarkozy is a PSG fan and frequently attends games.

Updated: June 26, 2019 03:20 PM

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