Court retains use of Sarkozy’s datebooks

Former president had hoped to bar evidence in cases against him

In yet another setback for the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, the Court of Cassation, France's highest court, yesterday said it is unable to rule on the legality of the seizure of Mr Sarkozy's 2007-2011 datebooks.

French judiciary police confiscated the datebooks from Mr Sarkozy's Paris office on the instructions of Judge Jean-Michel Gentil, who investigated Mr Sarkozy and his former associates for "abusing the weakness" of Liliane Bettencourt, France's richest woman, by seeking illegal campaign contributions from her in 2007.

The datebooks showed that Mr Sarkozy met Patrice de Maistre, who was in charge of managing Ms Bettencourt’s fortune, at the Élysée Palace.

Charges dropped
Charges against Mr Sarkozy in the Bettencourt case were dropped last October on the grounds of insufficient evidence. But 10 others are to stand trial.

Though the court said it could not consider Mr Sarkozy’s appeal because there are no charges against him, it validated Judge Gentil’s file, opening the way for the trial to take place.

Mr Sarkozy's datebooks are relevant to several financial scandals in which he is under investigation. In particular, they show that he repeatedly received the controversial businessman and former convict Bernard Tapie at the Élysée in the run-up to the arbitration, authorised by then finance minister Christine Lagarde, which awarded Mr Tapie €403 million.

Inadmissible evidence
Claiming executive privilege, Mr Sarkozy and his lawyers filed a lawsuit for the return of the datebooks, which they said should be declared inadmissible as evidence.

The revelation last week that the telephones of Mr Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog have been tapped by judges continues to roil French politics. Several hundred lawyers from left and right have objected to what they call a violation to the right to legal defence.

The right accuses the socialist executive branch of manipulating the justice system to harm Mr Sarkozy.

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is Paris Correspondent of The Irish Times