The prosecution also called for pronouncing against Michel Mercier, tried for “embezzlement of public funds” and “illegal taking of interests”, an ineligibility of ten years, accompanied by a ban on any public office for five years and a fine of 50,000 euros.

Against his wife Joëlle and his daughter Delphine, who appeared with him before the Paris Criminal Court for “concealment”, sentences of two years suspended and 18 months suspended respectively were required.

The 75-year-old former Keeper of the Seals, who denied any desire to do wrong for four days of debate, therefore did not win the conviction of the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF). In a long and severe indictment, the prosecutor called on Wednesday to sanction “acts all the more intolerable as they were committed by a man invested in politics for 40 years”.

The magistrate also denounced “the contradictions and the most total artistic vagueness” in the explanations of Michel Mercier, reproaching the attitude at the helm of this close friend of François Bayrou, “who opts for dodging and counter-responses. running”.

Mr. Mercier is judged “for having given in to ease, to comfort”, again struck the accusation, which noted the substantial sums at stake: nearly 450,000 euros of public money in total, according to the PNF count, taking into account the requests of the General Council of the Rhône which estimates at 96,000 euros the expenses incurred by Joëlle Mercier at the expense of the department.

– “Particularly serious” –

Willingly crafty, Michel Mercier presented himself at the bar as a “senator from a rural environment”, with the door always open and who therefore needed the assistance of his family, in the first row his wife, to fill his political functions.

The charges against the former minister of Nicolas Sarkozy (2010-2012) extend from 2005 to 2014, a time when family parliamentary jobs were not yet prohibited. They have been since the summer of 2017 and the resounding Fillon affair, which hovers above this trial.

During this period when family jobs were, according to him, “frequent”, Michel Mercier employed his wife as a parliamentary assistant when he was a senator between 2005 and 2013, even if she had in fact collaborated with him since 1999 – facts today prescribed.

But no one seemed to know, within the Rhône department, that Joëlle Mercier was her husband’s parliamentary assistant.

Her daughter, Delphine, was her parliamentary assistant from August 2012 to April 2014 while she was living in London. She was carrying out a “watch mission” on cultural matters for her father, she explained, but she was unable to provide any traces of the work carried out for her father.

Joëlle Mercier is also prosecuted for having organized, at the expense of the General Council of the Rhône, of which her husband was the president at the time, “events”, ranging from cooking or fencing lessons to cultural visits, from which several benefited. hundreds of people, mostly wives of Rhone notables.

The prosecution considered that “given her professional experience, she could not ignore that she was committing particularly serious acts”.

The investigation was opened in August 2017 after an article in Le Canard enchaîné and led the 75-year-old former Keeper of the Seals to give up the seat that was then promised to him on the Constitutional Council. “I consider (…) that I will not be able to sit with the necessary serenity,” he said.

The former minister and senator remains implicated in another file of fictitious jobs. Since 2019, he has been indicted in the case of MoDem MEP assistants alongside other centrist party executives, including François Bayrou.