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French court allows recordings of Sarkozy in corruption case

Obtained by wiretap, the recordings may serve as evidence that former French President Sarkozy sought to bribe a judge. The ruling strikes a blow to his expected campaign to regain the top office.

France's highest appeals court ruled that wiretapped phone recordings of former French President - and likely future presidential hopeful - Nicholas Sarkozy are admissible as evidence in a corruption case against him.

Sarkozy could be heard in one of the recordings discussing a deal on which the case is based, involving the procurement of a job in Monaco for a top French judge in exchange for information about a separate accusation of graft.

His legal team has fought to suppress the tapes, claiming it would breach lawyer-client confidentiality. But France's Court of Cassation has delivered the final say in the matter, confirming a ruling by the Paris appeals court last May.

"An insane procedure is going to follow now," said Sarkozy's lawyer after the ruling.

The trail could prove a fatal blow to Sarkozy's expected candidacy for next year's presidential elections. He is already behind in polls for the nomination of the conservative party Les Republicains.

Legal woes

Sarkozy has dealt with a great deal of legal trouble since losing his re-election bid for presidency to Francois Hollande in 2012. In fact, he is

the first former French president to have been taken into custody.

A number of these legal woes converged to produce the recordings.

Nicolas Sarkozy in a car

Nicholas Sarkozy leaves a questioning in a 2014 corruption probe

Investigators began tapping Sarkozy's phone in April 2013 in pursuit of allegations that former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi helped fund his 2007 presidential campaign.

It was then that Sarkozy was recorded discussing the deal involving Judge Gilbert Azibert, who is also charged in the case. Sarkozy's lawyer Thierry Herzog, who was on the other end of the conversation, is implicated as well.

That deal was being crafted to get Sarkozy information on a separate graft case, also in connection with his 2007 campaign. He was accused of accepting cash from France's richest woman, who, in her old age, potentially handed it over unwittingly. That charge was dropped due to lack of evidence.

His biggest rival for the nomination of Les Republicains, Alain Juppe, does not have a clean record either. Juppe, who has served as prime minister and minister of defense plus foreign minister, was convicted of corruption in 2004.

The nomination will be decided in a primary, set for November.

jtm/hg (AFP, Reuters)

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