Unlike the former head of state, tried for “Illegal campaign financing”, the former boss of the UMP benefited from a dismissal. It is as a simple witness that he will be heard this Wednesday.
He is not on the bench, but since the opening of the Bygmalion trial on the excessive spending of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2012, his name has been on everyone’s lips. Jean-François Copé will have the opportunity to explain himself on Wednesday June 9 before the Paris court. Unlike the former head of state, tried for “Illegal campaign financing”, and 13 other defendants, the former boss of the UMP (now Les Républicains) was dismissed. It is as a simple witness that he will be heard by the 11th Chamber, around 5 pm.
“Mr. Jean-François Copé is serene ”, assured his lawyer Me Hervé Temime to AFP. The current mayor of Meaux has always maintained that he was ignorant of the system of false invoices put in place to make the UMP pay the excessive spending rather than the countryside – nearly double the authorized legal ceiling. “All of this has been completely concealed from me”, had certified Jean-François Copé to the investigators, assuring to have discovered everything at the time of the revelations in the press in 2014. “If I had known, in a minute I would have banned these practices”, he had also said.
At the end of the investigation, the prosecution had certainly found “Astonishing that he did not try to understand” why his party was “On the verge of default” at the end of April 2012. But she had estimated that “nothing” did not prove that Jean-François Copé was informed of the fraud or that he could have detected it. A thesis that has never convinced in the camp of the former head of state – the sarkozysts and the copéists have always blamed themselves. Behind the legal battle is a major political dispute that is playing out between the two camps.
Some of the other defendants (former executives of the UMP and Bygmalion, campaign director, accountants) are also doubtful. At the start of the trial, the lawyers for four of them pleaded at length for new investigations to be initiated for “Enlighten the role” by Jean-Fraçois Copé. The question will be decided at the time of judgment. “I would like to understand the defense strategy of some”, replied Me Temime. Making his client the target of a case for which he has been cleared is “At the very least problematic”, said the lawyer.
“I protect my boss”
During the interrogations of the defendants by the court over the past two weeks, the name of the former boss of the UMP has continued to be regularly mentioned. The head of meetings at Bygmalion notably told of his summons to the office of Jean-François Cope, whom he did not know, after the revelations in the press: “Jean-François Copé enters the room, he tells me “Franck, what is this story of invoices!” He mimed. “He finishes his tirade, he leaves”, he had described, speaking of “Deception” to cover the boss.
“Strategic decisions are taken at the Élysée, with Nicolas Sarkozy”, for his part assured the court Jérôme Lavrilleux who was at the time both director of cabinet of Jean-François Cope and deputy director of the campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy. It is the Elysee who decided to multiply the meetings (44 in total) at the risk of exploding the campaign accounts because the important thing was to win, supported Jérôme Lavrilleux.
Very close to Jean-François Copé, like the founders of Bygmalion, Jérôme Lavrilleux was first accused of having imagined the fraudulent system to constitute a “slush fund” for the political future of his boss. Jérôme Lavrilleux, the only UMP to have recognized the existence of fraud, has always sworn that he had never spoken to Jean-François Cope so as not to put him in difficulty. He repeated it last week in court: “I protect my boss”.