Sarkozy phone tap scandal backfires on govt

2014-03-13 07:07
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - A scandal that landed former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy in hot water has boomeranged on to the Socialist government which has had to defend itself from charges of "political espionage" and now threatens a star minister.

Several leading members of France's right-wing opposition, itself reeling from a string of corruption cases allegedly implicating Sarkozy and several others, have called for the resignation of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira over the affair.

The controversy centres on explosive revelations on Friday that Sarkozy is being probed over suspicions he attempted to pervert the course of justice by trying to obtain secret information about an ongoing court case from a friendly judge.

Investigators got the alleged information when they heard a conversation between Sarkozy and his lawyer after tapping the former president's phones over a separate probe into allegations the late Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi helped finance his 2007 election campaign.

On Wednesday, financial prosecutors told AFP that Sarkozy's phones were tapped in September, although it is unclear when the conversation took place and whether the devices are still bugged.

The phone-tapping revelations - a first for a former president - caused outrage among Sarkozy's supporters and the focus soon shifted on to whether the Socialist government knew about the taps amid concerns the constitutional separation of powers had been breached.

On Monday, Taubira said she had no prior knowledge of the phone taps and she had learnt about them at the same time as the French public.

But in comments that contradicted her claims, Prime Minister Jean Marc Ayrault revealed on Tuesday that he was informed of the taps much earlier on 26 February 26 - as was Taubira.

Jean-Francois Cope, the head of the main opposition UMP party, slammed the phone-tapping as "political espionage", labelling it an "affair of state".

The justice minister "lied" and "it's not possible for her to stay in her post. Her resignation over this lie is inevitable," Cope said on Wednesday.

Just 10 days ago, Cope himself was under fire following press revelations that lucrative contracts given out by the UMP party benefited people close to him.

Taubira later on Wednesday admitted having been informed of the taps on 26 February, but ruled out resigning and said she was not aware of the contents of the phone conversations.

Government allies also leapt to her defence.

Alain Vidalies, the Socialist minister in charge of government relations with parliament, lashed out at the UMP for what he labelled "a successful smokescreen".

Government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem condemned what she called a recurring tactic by the UMP.

"Every time that the UMP is in a bad way, it takes it out on the messenger... When today Mr Sarkozy is implicated in a very serious manner by judicial authorities, it's judicial authorities themselves that they try to discredit," she said.

Read more on:    nicolas sarkozy  |  france

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.