LONDON – The era of privacy is definitely coming to an end. After the NSA leaks and the ensuing revelations, the French press has been taken aback since Wednesday over the scandal that has already dubbed “Sarkoleaks.” The newspaper Le Canard Enchainé and the website Atlantico revealed that Patrick Buisson, a special counsellor to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, had recorded meetings between himself and other members of the government in 2011 without their knowledge.
Four recordings were revealed and posted online by Atlantico. The people who were unknowingly recorded include Sarkozy himself, Henri Guaino, speechwriter and special advisor to Sarkozy, and Sarkozy’s wife, former First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, among others.
The recordings are from late February 2011, when Sarkozy was planning to reshuffle his government, moving certain ministers to new assignments and letting others go. Buisson recorded a conversation between himself, Sarkozy, and Bruni-Sarkozy discussing the departure of Brice Hortefeux from the Ministry of Interior.
Another recording was made in a car on February 26, 2011, between Buisson and Jean-Michel Goudard, communications advisor to the president. They were discussing Claude Guéant, presumed to become Minister of Interior. They then moved on to discuss Michel Mercier, at the time Minister of Justice. In the recording, Buisson admits he tried to have him removed from the government. They are also heard exchanging unkind words about other members of the government, including Roselyne Bachelot and Michèle Alliot-Marie, who was about to leave the government during the reshuffling due to her ties with the Tunisian government of Ben-Ali as the revolution there was gaining steam.
Furthermore, these recordings reveal that at the time of the governmental reshuffling, while rumors grew that former Prime Minister Francois Fillon would be asked to leave and that Jean-Louis Borloo would replace him, this was never the case. According to Sarkozy, the only possible replacement was in fact Alain Juppé.
Patrick Buisson, former favorite advisor of Sarkozy with historical ties to the far right, has been denounced as a traitor by his political associates following the scandal. Some claim that he is planning on using these recordings, which could amount to more than the four that were leaked to the press, as leverage against his political enemies.
Whether or not Buisson intentionally leaked these recordings is still unknown. He maintains that these were made in a professional setting on a record for his own use and that they were stolen from him.
The story already surfaced a month ago in the weekly Le Point, but went unnoticed. Buisson at the time still denied the existence of these recordings and threatened to press charges against the magazine. It is only after their release that the scandal erupted. In the Le Point story Georges Buisson, his son, defended himself against the charges that he is the leaker, but stated that he knew about his father’s actions. They are now in the middle of a legal battle.
The Sarkozys have filed a complaint for invasion of privacy.
This scandal seriously hurt the Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), Sarkozy’s party, especially so close to the municipal elections. Rama Yade, a former Sports and Health Minister of Sarkozy’s government, declared this morning on RMC Radio that whether or not he felt sympathy for him, Sarkozy was undoubtedly recognized as the victim in this affair, and that this does not prevent his possible comeback in the 2017 presidential elections.