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Nicolas Sarkozy escapes French Justice

The greatest hurdle to Nicolas Sarkozy’s political comeback has been removed, after judges dropped charges against him for illegally soliciting campaign funds from France’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt.

Nicolas Sarkozy suspected in several corruption scandals

Nicolas Sarkozy charged in several corruption scandals

A French court has dropped charges that alleged Nicolas Sarkozy took advantage of the mental fragility of France’s richest woman to obtain illegal funding for his 2007 election campaign, potentially paving the way for a political return.

Sarkozy, who was under investigation for allegedly accepting cash from the L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, 90, was told there was no case to answer and he would not be sent for trial. However, all charges are diverted against Eric Woerth, Sarkozy’s campaign treasurer.

The unexpected decision removed a major obstacle for the rightwing politician – who was defeated after one term in office by Socialist François Hollande in May 2012 – to stand again for president in 2017.

Judges had been conducting a criminal investigation into Sarkozy’s links with Bettencourt and whether he abused her weakness by asking for and accepting money for his successful 2007 election campaign, when she was allegedly too frail to know what she was doing.

Sarkozy, who was “mis en examen”, the French equivalent of being charged, in March this year, maintained the accusations were unfounded, while supporters said the allegations were unfair and politically motivated. At the time, the president’s wife, former supermodel Carla Bruni, added: “It’s unimaginable that [Sarkozy] could abuse the weakness of a lady who is the age of his mother.”

The decision to drop the charges came only two weeks after a court ruled that an investigation could proceed. However, the public prosecutor in Bordeaux, where the inquiry was being held, said the case against Sarkozy stood no chance of success and had threatened to appeal against any decision to send the former president to trial, raising further delays to the investigation against other accused.

Charges were maintained against former minister Eric Woerth, who was Sarkozy’s treasurer in the 2007 campaign; Bettencourt’s former companion, the society photographer François-Marie Banier; her lawyer Pascal Wilhelm; her financial advisor Patrice de Maistre, and six others. Their case is expected to go to court next year.

In a separate case, Bettencourt’s former butler and five journalists are to face trial for breaching French privacy laws for making and publishing extracts of conversations secretly recorded at her luxury home. The tapes played a central role in the longrunning dispute between the matriarch and her only child, Françoise Meyers-Bettencourt, who accused members of her mother’s entourage and staff of taking advantage of her weakening mental state.

Sarkozy remains dogged by several other legal cases, including a scandal over millions of public funds money paid in compensation to his friend Bernard Tapie, a controversial businessman; and the so-called Karachi affair, a convoluted corruption case linked to arms sales and a bombing in Pakistan in 2002 that killed 11 French nationals.

In the runup to the May 2012 election campaign, Sarkozy said if he lost, France would “never hear of me again”. He has remained mostly out of sight since his defeat, but recently, while stopping short of any explicit pledge of a comeback, he and his entourage have dropped heavy hints that he may return to the frontline of French politics to “save” the country.

Sarkozy remains the mainstream right’s most popular candidate to challenge Hollande in 2017. Neither his former prime minister François Fillon nor Jean-François Copé, president of his UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) party, have succeeded in rallying support.

An opinion poll by Ifop in September found 62% of rightwing voters wanted him to stand in 2017 – well ahead of any rivals in the party. A national drive among UMP supporters to avert a financial crisis and repay the €11m (£9.3m) overspend on Sarkozy’s unsuccessful 2012 campaign raised the money in just two months.

“I want each of you to know how grateful I am for this mobilisation, which surprised me as much as it moved me … Thank you all,” Sarkozy wrote on his Twitter account.

During a recent visit to the Haute-Savoie region, Sarkozy dined with UMP supporters, and seemed unconcerned with wrangling within the UMP party. “I can’t be bothered with small political news,” he told them. “But France, that’s something else.”

Paris – correspondence from Renaud de Castel-Brizach


Carla Bruni-Sarkozy under fire over cost of website

Paris: France’s former first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, is threatening legal action after an online petition asked her to repay nearly half a million euros used to fund her website while her husband was president.


A website developer started a petition asking her to repay 410,000 euros – the amount the website cost the French taxpayer from January 2011 to May 2012. As of Monday afternoon, the petition had already been signed by over 80,000 people.

The developer argues the site could have been maintained for much less, and wants the model-turned-singer to donate the money to charity.

Bruni-Sarkozy’s lawyer Richard Malka said Monday in a statement that the money only went to promote the former first lady’s official activities and she reserves the right to sue for attacks to her honor

Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, the Creepy Little French Dwarf

Le Figaro has published a leaked internal Presidential note which severely criticises President Obama’s Prague speech on nuclear disarmament. The note gives the lie to French declarations of support made at the time Obama spoke.

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Those official declarations declared that France judged “100 percent positive the propositions of the American President in view of the elimination of nuclear weapons.” But the note consists of a pessimistic analysis of the speech in terms of its effects on denuclearisation as well as its implications for France’s own nuclear policies. There are deep disagreements. The general impression of its content indicates that the French are worried about being seen as being hostile to denuclearisation because they have no intention of reducing its nuclear capability, and do not consider “Global Zero” as being an option. It states that France does not have lessons to learn from America on the disarmament process, a process to which France considers that it has largely contributed. It abrasively judges Obama’s speech as consisting largely of fluff. Anonymous Presidential sources here say that the speech was largely a public relations job intended to improve America’s image in the world, and not a serious declaration concerning American security policy. According to the Élysée Palace, the speech was an effort to divert attention from America’s stalling on disarmament because of its gigantic cost, and that most of the general themes contained within it had already been floated by George Bush. Moreover it was noted that the renewal of Start, which stipulates a reduction of ten thousand warheads each for America and Russia, has still not been ratified. The same relativism applies to the complete Test Ban treaty, which has still not been ratified by the US Senate. France stopped nuclear testing in 1998 and considers that it is the Americans themselves who are most to blame for the treaty’s non-application. Concerning the cessation of the production of fissile material, it was noted that Bush had already submitted a draft treaty on this subject to the Disarmement Conference and that America and China still have this capability whereas France dismantled its own production sites years ago. Concerning increased sanctions for countries who infringe the nuclear rulebook, the French estimate that existing sanctioning options would be more than enough to do the job if they were strictly applied. They also point to the G8 summit on Sea Island in 2004 during which it was decided to suspend co-operation and apply sanctions to offenders. Thus Obama’s reference to this issue is seen as being largely meaningless in concrete terms. Finally, on the subject of nuclear terrorism, the French dismiss Obama’s promises to ensure total control over all nuclear material in four years as being unrealistic and impossible to fulfil. At the time of writing, there has been no official reaction from the Elysee to the publication of the content of the note, and analysts here are trying to decide whether the leak was deliberate or not. The only sure conclusion to draw from this note is that what is said in public and what is said in private on the subject of Obama’s speech, as well as on the extent of Franco/American agreement on nuclear issues in general, are two completely different things. It will be interesting to see how America reacts.Read more: