Bygmalion trial: Nicolas Sarkozy back in court

L’a lot of ink has been spilled in recent years. After a false start from the Bygmalion trial in March, Nicolas Sarkozy is back in court. A month and a half after his conviction in the so-called “wiretapping” affair, the former head of state will be tried from Thursday, May 20 for the excessive expenditure of his presidential campaign in 2012. This trial, scheduled for one month , should have started in mid-March, but it had been postponed due to the hospitalization of the lawyer of Jérôme Lavrilleux, central protagonist of the file which had caused cascading explosions on the right.

The presence of the former president at the opening of the hearing at 1:30 p.m. is however uncertain. In March, he had not come because of the request for referral, his historic lawyer, Thierry Herzog, told the court. A few days earlier, Nicolas Sarkozy had become the first ex-president of the Ve République to be sentenced to prison: he had been given three years’ imprisonment, two of which were suspended, for corruption and influence peddling.

His interrogation scheduled for the week of June 14

Nicolas Sarkozy had attended the entire trial in the “wiretapping” affair. For Bygmalion, on the other hand, he will not “shirk”, but has made it known that he will only attend hearings concerning him. His questioning is scheduled for the week of June 14. In this Bygmalion case, named after the communication agency linked to the UMP (formerly Les Républicains), he faces one year of imprisonment and a fine of 3,750 euros.

Unlike his 13 co-defendants, former executives of Bygmalion and the UMP, accountants, dismissed in particular for fraud or complicity, the former president is not blamed for the system of false invoices imagined to hide excessive spending of his campaign, revealed by Jérôme Lavrilleux in a surprising televised confession in 2014. Nevertheless, according to the prosecution, Nicolas Sarkozy let the expenses slip despite several clear alerts on the risks of exceeding the ceiling and he “undoubtedly” benefited fraud which allowed it to have “means much greater” than what the law authorized: at least 42.8 million in total, almost double the legal ceiling at the time (22.5 million euros).

Jérôme Lavrilleux, at the time deputy director of the Sarkozy campaign and chief of staff of the boss of the UMP Jean-François Cope, is the only party to have recognized the facts. He was first accused of having built up a “war chest” for the benefit of his boss’s political future. Jean-François Cope has benefited from a dismissal in this case, and will only be heard as a witness. He let it be known through his lawyer Hervé Temime that he would answer “all the questions” during his hearing, scheduled for May 27.

READ ALSOEXCLUSIVE. Bygmalion case: the document that contradicts Jean-François Copé

A “total improvisation”

The investigation described a campaign which was initially intended “lightning” for the outgoing president, only fifteen meetings are envisaged, of which three or four large gatherings. But the machine is racing: “the most advanced technical means” for the stage, sound and lighting, “grandiose and millimeter staging” for large meetings … prices keep rising. And while the first alerts of risk of overtaking fall, the candidate asks on the contrary that we accelerate the pace. There will be more than 40 meetings in total. A campaign “of rare density”, marked by a “very rapid” succession of meetings and a “total improvisation” of the ordering parties, also says the prosecution.

To prevent the candidate Sarkozy from having to publicly admit that his spending had drifted “dramatically”, “with the political and financial consequences” that would have followed, it was decided to “purge” the campaign account, argues l ‘charge. Thanks to a double billing system, the price of meetings is drastically reduced and the rest is billed to the UMP, in the name of fictitious party conventions.

READ ALSOEXCLUSIVE. The Republicans party “erases the slate of Bygmalion”

Dismissed for fraud, the director of the campaign, Guillaume Lambert, assures him that the system was put in place without his knowledge. For him, “nothing” in the file would also show a link with the campaign. He favors the thesis of the personal enrichment of leaders of Bygmalion. “I continue to wonder where the money went,” Nicolas Sarkozy had said to investigators, believing that the average price of his meetings was “in line” with those of his opponent François Hollande. The trial is scheduled to last until June 22.

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