The trial of the Bygmalion case and the excessive spending of the presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 was postponed Wednesday to May 20, due to the hospitalization of the lawyer of one of the defendants. Heard over a month, it will be held until June 22, the court decided after more than an hour and a half of deliberation.
The trial was originally scheduled for March 17 to April 15. The most awaited warning of the trial, the former President of the Republic did not appear at the hearing because of the request for referral, he said. At the origin of the request for referral, Jérôme Lavrilleux – at the time deputy director of the campaign – assured the bar that he would nevertheless have liked this trial to be held as soon as possible. “I have been waiting for this trial, to be able to answer you, since February 2017,” he told the court.
His lawyer Me Christian Saint-Palais is infected with Covid-19 and hospitalized. “During this investigation, I never wanted to delay it with an appeal. But there, I am distraught, ”explained, the voice tied, Mr. Lavrilleux. All the lawyers including those of the civil parties as well as the prosecution have given their approval to the referral requested by Mr. Lavrilleux.
Jérôme Lavrilleux is a central protagonist in this affair which caused cascading explosions on the right, and the first to have confessed to his participation in a vast scam based on false invoices, aimed at attributing to the UMP party (which has since become Les Républicains) the excessive spending of the Sarkozy campaign. At the hearing, the historical lawyer of Nicolas Sarkozy, Thierry Herzog, sent a letter to the court explaining that his client had been “informed of the request for referral” and, therefore, “did not intend to be present “.
This is the second time in two weeks that the former president has found himself in court. On March 1, he became the first ex-president of the Fifth Republic to be sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, one of which was firm, for corruption and influence peddling. He incurs in the Bygmalion case 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, Mr. Sarkozy is not blamed for the system of false invoices imagined to hide expenses excessive campaign. But, according to the prosecution, Nicolas Sarkozy let expenses slip away despite several clear alerts on the risks of exceeding the ceiling and he “undoubtedly” benefited from the fraud which allowed him to have “much greater means” than what ‘authorized the law: at least 42.8 million in total, almost double the legal ceiling at the time (22.5 million euros).
First “flash” campaign
The investigation describes a campaign which was initially intended to be “lightning” for the outgoing president – only about fifteen meetings planned, including 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 climbing. . 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.
To avoid the candidate having to publicly admit that his expenses had drifted “dramatically”, “with the political and financial consequences” that would have followed, it was decided to “purge” the campaign account, argues the charge. Thanks to a system of double invoicing, the price of meetings is drastically reduced and the rest is invoiced to the UMP, in the name of fictitious conventions of the party.
Rekindle a fratricidal war
The trial risks reigniting a fratricidal war within the French right, the Sarkozy camp and those close to Jean-François Cope mutually rejecting responsibility for the fraud. Jérôme Lavrilleux (at the time also chief of staff of the boss of the UMP Jean-François Copé) 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.
Never questioned, Jean-François Copé will be heard at the trial as a simple witness. Some lawyers including that of Mr. Sarkozy did not fail Wednesday to scratch him by suggesting that the former secretary general of the UMP was necessarily aware of the calamitous accounts of his party. “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.