According to the Urban dictionary, a ‘Napoleon complex’ is defined as ‘a personality complex that consists of power trips and false machismo to make up for short height and feelings of inferiority’.

If I were in a position of influence — and I’m not — my detractors might apply that term to me: But it is a state of mind that has often been applied to Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France. The 63-year-old is back in the news with the word that he is to stand trial for corruption and influence peddling, charges that centre on attempts he allegedly made to contact a senior judge who was investigating claims that his 2007 presidential campaign was illegally funded.

Sarkozy, who was president of France from 2007 until his defeat to Francois Hollande in 2012, is alleged to have promised the judge a comfortable promotion in return for information about the fraud inquiry. Incidentally, both the judge and Sarkozy’s attorney, Thierry Herzog, have been ordered to stand trial on the same charges. All three have denied any wrongdoing and Sarkozy has already appealed the decision to send the case to court.

But it’s not as if this affair is the only legal woe facing the 63-year-old. Just days before, he was formally put under investigation over claims he accepted €50 million (Dh224.65 million) from the late dictator of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi. Dead colonels tell no tales, but there seems to be enough of a paper trail there for investigating magistrates in the Paris suburb of Nanterre to place the former Mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine and Minister of the Interior under “formal investigation” for passive corruption, illegal elector campaign funding and concealing Libyan public funds.

Sarkozy too denies these accusations and has gone on prime-time television to denounce them as “crazy” and “monstrous”.

Certainly, such a bold attacking move would be characteristic of that Napoleon complex, but then there is also this gem from the Sun, the mass circulation London-based tabloid, that has stretched credulity in its reporting his latest woes: “Sarkozy has gone to great lengths to disguise his height in public. Standing at 165cms, Sarkozy once gave a televised speech at the Faurecia motor technology plant in Normandy in 2009. But all factory workers had to be shorter than him — despite the fact he was wearing his trademark stacked heels that raised him to around 172cms. All admitted they were among the smallest members of the 1,400-strong workforce and had been selected to replace usual staff in the unit where Sarkozy spoke on the car industry.”

The moral seems to be, at least in the Sun’s eyes, that if the French president covers up his height, he must then have something else to hide as well. That surely is enough to give anyone a complex!

In this latest case, Sarkozy is accused of contacting Gilbert Azibert, then a senior judge in France’s highest court, the court of cassation, in 2014 — two years after he left office — via his lawyer Herzog to obtain information about an investigation being carried out about his 2007 campaign funding. In this instance, Sarkozy had been accused of taking envelopes of cash in illegal donations from the late Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L’Oreal fortune. According to BFM TV, two of the charges carry maximum sentences of ten years in prison and €150,000 in fines. The investigation first emerged in a 2012 report by news website Mediapart.

Ziad Takieddine, a French-Lebanese arms dealer who introduced Sarkozy to Gaddafi, told Mediapart in 2016 that he had carried three suitcases stuffed with cash from Libya to Paris, personally handing over €5 million intended for Sarkozy’s campaign to his then chief-of-staff, Claude Gueant, in 2006 and 2007. Gueant later became the minister of interior, but he is not without his own legal troubles. He was charged earlier this year in connection to the Sarkozy investigation over a €500,000 transfer that took place in 2008. He too is denying charges of money laundering and tax evasion, claiming the money came from the sale of two paintings.

After Sarkozy was elected in 2007, he received Gaddafi with pomp in Paris, but later spearheaded international military action against his regime in 2011 along with the then British prime minister, David Cameron, and the then United States president Barack Obama, which led to the dictator being toppled and killed.

Since then, Sarkozy’s aides and several suspects said to have acted as intermediaries between France and Libya have come under close scrutiny.

One suspect, Alexandre Djouhri, a French-Algerian businessman, was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport in January and is being held while a request for extradition to France is being considered. Djouhri also denies wrongdoing.

Sarkozy served only one term as president. Since losing his re-election bid in 2012, he has faced several corruption investigations. He consistently denied wrongdoing. While some charges were dropped, last year, he was ordered to stand trial on charges of illegal overspending for his 2012 campaign, and reportedly made the approach to Azibert in the summer of 2014.

Sarkozy withdrew from frontline politics after failing to win the presidential nomination of his centre-right Republicans part last year, but he remains popular with right-wing supporters, according to recent opinion polls, and continues to wield influence among top conservatives.

His parents were of Hungarian and Greek Jewish origin and he grew up in a mansion owned by his mother’s grandfather, Benedict Mallah.

In his early days, he passed the French bar and became a family and business lawyer, later becoming one of former Italian prime minister and convicted influence peddler Silvio Berlusconi’s French lawyers.

Almost as turbulent as his current affairs were his affairs of the heart.

He married his first wife, Marie-Dominique Culioli in 1982 and has two sons with her, Pierre and Jean. They divorced after 14 years before he went on to marry former fashion model and public relations executive Cecilia Ciganer-Albeniz in 1996. Together, they have one son, Louis, but they later divorced after he was elected president. He subsequently married Carla Bruni, also a former model and a singer-songwriter to boot. She met him at a dinner party just four months after his second divorce and together have a daughter, Giulia, born in October 2011.

There must indeed then be something appealing about that short-man complex after all.

— With inputs from agencies