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Sarko phone taps ruled legal in corruption inquiry

A French court in Paris ruled yesterday that judges were within their rights to tap phone conversations between former president Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer.

The tapping was part of an investigation into election campaign funding.

Investigators recorded the conversations in 2013-2014 as part of a probe into allegations that Mr Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign had received funding from the Libyan government.

Mr Sarkozy won that election but then lost to Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande in 2012.

From the recordings, taken from phones registered in Mr Sarkozy’s name and the false identity of Paul Bismuth, they found evidence of an alleged influence-peddling plot by Mr Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog.

This led to more serious charges of active corruption, indicating that he orchestrated corrupt acts rather than just participating in them.

Active corruption carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The probe was halted for seven months after Messrs Sarkozy and Herzog protested that the phone-tapping was a clear breach of lawyer-client privilege and that the investigating judges had not received proper authorisation.

“The fight for the confidentiality of communications between a lawyer and client is not just Thierry Herzog’s fight, it is the fight of all lawyers,” said Mr Herzog’s own lawyer Paul-Albert Iweins.

Yesterday’s ruling clears the way for the investigation against both men to proceed, striking a major blow against Mr Sarkozy’s chances of running in the 2017 presidential election.


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