July 5, 2014

Former French president Nicholas Sarkozy’s dramatic criminal interrogation last week shows once again that the politics of the French Republic remain waist-deep in sewage. It was also an affront and humiliation of a former – and would be future – French president.

Sarkozy was picked up from his Paris home before eight AM and whisked off to a police and judicial center in the outskirts of the capitol. He was subjected to 15 hours of intensive questioning, then taken at two AM to be arraigned (‘mis en examen’) for possible corruption and perversion of justice.

“Grotesque” claimed Sarkozy the next day, insisting he was being humiliated and persecuted by leftwing political enemies in the judiciary. He may have been right. Such Stasi-like treatment of a former president was unprecedented and unnecessary. It was revealed that Sarkozy’s cell phone had been tapped by magistrates for over a year. What was going on?

The former president is accused of improperly using his influence by offering favors to two senior magistrates to find out details in an explosive 2007 case of illegal campaign financing. The late Col. Muammar Khadaffi claimed before his murder by French-linked insurgents that he had secretly given Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign $68 million. Khadaffi knew too much…and was talking.

As the pirates used to say, dead men tell no tales.

This case, now under intense investigation, could blow up and wreck what had until now appeared Sarkozy’s likely re-election in 2017. He remains the most leading candidate of the center-right while the current French Socialist president, Francois Hollande, is so miserably unpopular he couldn’t get elected as a dog catcher. Hollande’s popularity rating is 16% and falling. Amazingly, the disgraced Socialist leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn (aka DSK) is now better regarded by the French public than the wretched Hollande.

As I watched Sarkozy being carted off by the police, I wondered, could this be payback by the left for the honey-trap that ended the career of former Socialist luminary Strauss-Kahn?

The former International Monetary Fund director and Socialist bigwig, the notoriously oversexed Strauss-Kahn, was charged with attempting to rape an African maid in a French-owned New York hotel.

The case smelled of a frame up concocted by Strauss-Kahn’s enemies on the right, probably with help from an intelligence service. Strauss-Kahn was arrested, humiliated, and jailed. After a lurid trial, he finally beat the rap, but not before his political reputation was ruined and his quest for France’s presidency derailed. But for this tawdry case, Strauss-Kahn would likely have been elected president of France in 2012, sparing the republic the unloved Hollande. Many French darkly suspected Sarkozy was behind the plot against Strauss-Kahn.

Sarko has been up to his ears in scandal for a decade. He was recently acquitted of “abuse of the elderly” after being charged with taking envelopes of cash from France’s richest woman, the senile l’Oréal heiress, Lillian Betancourt. He faces other illegal fund-raising charges.

Another nasty case hounds Sarkozy involving kickbacks on a major submarine contract to Pakistan in which a number of French technicians were killed – allegedly after bribes to Pakistani politicians went unpaid. At the time, Sarkozy was chief campaign fund raiser for then presidential candidate Edouard Balladur.

While Sarkozy is still popular on the right, there is little personal sympathy for him. In the waspish words of Britain’s Francophobe Daily Mail, Sarko is a “French peacock married to a super model (Carla Bruni) who lives like a king.” Indeed, the Sarkozys have castles, magnificent country estates and yachting trips. Their jet-setting and love of gaudy excess has given Sarko the sobriquet, “president Bling.” The short, hyperactive, half Jewish, 5’5” Sarko is hardly the traditionally elegant, regal French president French admire. Napoleon was even taller than Sarko. But he has more energy than all his opponents combined.

France’s problem with political sleaze stems in good part because its overly restrictive campaign laws cause presidential candidates to solicit “black” funds, then conceal them.

In the past, the French government oil company Total was a favorite piggy bank for politicians. So, too, the dictators of former French West Africa. At French election time, they were expected to deliver bags of cash to the French candidates in exchange for future favors or carte blanche from human rights problems.

All of this financial and political sleaze was shrugged off by most French –at least until now. The establishment French media kept most of the scandals under wraps. In Britain, they would have been front-page screamer headlines.

The brusque way Sarko was handled was wrong. But the crimes of which he and his cronies are accused are extremely grave, defiling the honor of France and its republican governments. They must be investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted. Not a day too soon as the Fifth Republic crumbles.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2014

This post is in: France


  1. solum temptare possumus says:

    No wonder you have a fascination with France. It holds all the political machinations of all other western states; out in the public for all citizens to gossip about.
    Rarely do we see such subterfuge in other Democracies that is put front and centre.
    To the citizens of the Republic of France, these affairs are perhaps the
    “Gossip de la vie”
    We thank the Republic for continuing the tradition of using the metaphoric guillotine on its egotistical power driven leaders.
    Slow and cumbersome as it appears, “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, are the backbones of Democracy.
    We are In Debt to the citizens of France for their vigilance, and to Mr. Margolis, who keeps us apprised (1685–95; < French appris taught, informed, past participle of apprendre; see apprehend),
    of the "La vie de la République" (The Life of the Republic)

    Bonne chance monsieur! Je vous salue! (Good Luck Sir! I salute you!)
    ad iudicium

  2. George Rizk says:

    France’s de Vilpen (spelling?); their eloquent foreign minister during the preparation for America to rail road an invasion scheme in the UN represented the last finest French appearance on the international scene.

    After that, America called French Fries Freedom Fries, and the war mongers/neocons/rednecks, had a field day insulting the French. I remember a joke about how do you know an airliner is a French airliner? The clever Evangelical rednecks answer : it is one with hair under its wings? Ha hah hah. The idiots forgot the most of the best toiletries in the world are French.

    Nevertheless, France decided forget vive la difference, we cannot afford to have hostility with the neocons, so the joined them. Now France is the instigator of wars rather than the peace loving nation, which she used to be.

    Both Sarkozy and Hollande are not real leaders, but so are most of the American presidents. But, at least in the past Francois Miterrant, and Ronald Reagan use to appear as leaders. I cannot imagine Strause Khan being president of France? He would have demeaned that position more than Hollande has?

    In the West, there is an unwritten rule that regardless of the crimes of an ex-president, it is not appropriate to drag him to jail as in the case of Latin American / ME countries? Honestly, I rather if we were more aggressive in putting our leaders to face justice. But, we did Not even sign on the international criminal court? We used it to pursue other who we don’t like, but, we evidently made it clear that our leaders are above the laws.

  3. I thought that Strauss-Khan’s escapade was a little too contrived… but, thought it was IMF related. I would never have considered the French government and security forces behind it. It appears that they are derailing any comeback.
    Vive la France?

  4. Steve_M. says:

    The suggestion that Sarkozy might have been behind the overthrow and murder of Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi is an intriguing one. At the time of Khadaffi’s overthrow, it was widely believed that the West was acting to get its hands on Libyan oil and, in the case of Sarkozy, to divert the French people’s attention from the country’s serious economic problems. If Sarkozy indeed acted because of Khadaffi’s explosive allegations, then he would deserve to face harsh justice and the loss of his reputation.

    • Lybia was one of the seven countries in 2000, that was not under the control yet of the international bankers. The others were Iraq, Afghanistan Sudan, Iran and Cuba. As we know from recent historic events, that privileged club has now shrunk to only two, Iran and Cuba. I wonder, if this could have anything to do with it? Considering the status in the west of the last two holdouts, one could hardly assume otherwise.
      I wonder also, if there was an ulterior reason, why a favorite French lady by the name of Christine Lagarde was picked for the right reason, considering, that she is the first person to lead the IMF, who is not an economist. She was once advised “don`t let the bastards get you”. A very realistic piece of advice, considering the viper pit she is in. I hope she can stick with her original idealistic views and really transform that institution to something honorable, which right now it is not.
      As far as Sarkozy is concerned, he may be good for those, who bought his position for him, but that is not the same as the French people, on whose behalf he was supposed to work. Gaddafi was such a person and look what happened to him. Sure he was no saint, but then he was a politician and that quality rarely goes with that distinction. Gaddafi was also trying to get compensated for his oil in other than American dollars. And on top of that, he was a staunch and proud African, who wanted to get Africa out of its subservient situation it has been in since the beginning of the colonial times.

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