PARIS: Nicolas Sarkozy was seething Wednesday after it emerged that an aide had secretly recorded hundreds of hours of meetings and private conversations involving the former French president when he was in office.
A scandal that swept the Ukraine crisis off the top of the country's news agenda erupted after transcripts of some of the illicit recordings were published by satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaine and website Atlantico.
The initial revelations contain excerpts in which top officials express scorn over the presence of Sarkozy's wife, the ex-supermodel Carla Bruni, at meetings at the Elysee.
Sarkozy himself is shown to have been dismissive, even mocking, of the capacities of some of his ministers.
Otherwise there was nothing that could be considered particularly damaging for Sarkozy or his hopes of a political comeback, but they nevertheless caused uproar amongst French politicians.
Some claimed national security could have been compromised and demanded an official enquiry while others simply fumed over the treachery of Patrick Buisson, the political advisor who made the recordings.
"It is enough to make you fall off your chair," said former premier Jean-Pierre Raffarin. Another former prime minister, Francois Fillon, declared: "It's repugnant."
And Henri Guaino, one of Sarkozy's closest allies, said the former president was feeling "rage, a feeling of being betrayed that is even greater than my own, because he chose him (Buisson).
"He thought that their relationship was based on, if not friendship, trust at least.
"It is really a betrayal. For us the experience is akin to a type of rape."
Buisson, 64, is a former historian and journalist who became a political advisor to the president and is credited with being behind a lurch to the right in terms of tone and policy during the latter years of Sarkozy's 2007-12 term of office.
He is currently being investigated by an examining magistrate over contracts given to a company he owned to carry out polling for Sarkozy.
Judges suspect that the contracts were awarded without the required tender process and that some of the polling was for party political ends.
Sarkozy, who has been plotting a political comeback in time to run for the presidency again in 2017, now faces the prospect of weeks, possibly months, of potentially embarrassing revelations being drip-fed, Wikileaks style, into the media.
According to Le Canard and Atlantico, the recordings include some made when he was with Sarkozy in official cars and at his private residence.
In a statement, Buisson's lawyer confirmed that the tapes had been made but claimed they had been done purely for professional reasons, helping the advisor to ensure he had a proper record of all discussions with his boss and other officials.
Most of the recordings were destroyed and those that have been made public must have been stolen, the lawyer added.
It is not clear how the tapes made their way into the public domaine but judicial sources denied that they had been seized by judges looking into the opinion poll case.