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Former PM Fillon urged French presidency to speed up anti-Sarkozy legal action, report

media Former president Nicolas Sarkozy (R) with his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (C) and former president Jacques Chirac's wife Bernadette (L) at his rally on Friday Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

Former prime minister François Fillon is lying when he denies having urged the French presidency to intervene in legal action against Nicolas Sarkozy, the president under whom he served and his probable rival for right-wing presidential candidate in 2017, two journalists insisted Saturday.

Fillon this week denied the accusation, made in Gérard Davet’s and Fabrice Lhomme’s recently published book Sarko, s’est tuer and his denial was confirmed by Elysée presidential palace secretary-general Jean-Pierre Jouyet, whom the authors quoted as a source, on Thursday.

But, writing in Le Monde, the paper that employs them, on Saturday, Davet and Lhomme say they have cast-iron proof of their story.

They have Jouyet on tape telling them “unambiguously” that Fillon had told him to “strike [Sarkozy] quickly”, they claim.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

The accusation relates to the Bygmalion scandal, one of seven legal cases in which Sarkozy has been implicated.

Investigators are looking into charges that the former president’s campaign is accused of concealing massive overspending in the 2012 presidential election campaign by passing it off as other expenditure by his party, the UMP.

Sarkozy is currently campaigning to become leader of the party, a move that is believed to be a step towards becoming the mainstream right’s candidate in the 2017 presidential poll.

Fillon and another former prime minister, Alain Juppé, have already declared their intention to stand for that job.

According to Davet and Lhomme, Jouyet told them that Fillon urged him to intervene to speed up the investigation into Sarkozy during a lunch at which an unnamed third person was also present on 24 June.

The UMP should not be held responsible, he reportedly said, it was Sarkozy’s personal responsibility.

“But, Jean-Pierre, you do realise that if you don’t strike quickly, you’re letting him come back?” he asked the official.

Jouyet reported the conversation to President François Hollande, who told him not to do anything about the matter, he allegedly told the reporters.

Their interview with Jouyet took place on 20 September when they sought confirmation of another source’s report of the Fillon-Jouyet exchange, Davet and Lhomme say.

Sarkozy was on the campaign trail in Paris on Friday evening.

Speaking to a crowd of 3,000, he repeated his call for a new party of the right to repair “yesterday’s divisions” and prepare a response to “everything that is threatening the [French] republic”.

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