Paul Bismuth
Paul Bismuth looks at a picture of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on a mobile phone. Photo by AFP
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An Israeli who inadvertently found himself in the middle of a French political scandal says he is considering suing the attorney of former president Nicolas Sarkozy for identity theft, according to the France 24 website.

The lawyer, Thierry Herzog, acknowledged last week that he had instructed his client to use a prepaid mobile phone registered under the alias Paul Bismuth for their private communications – because he suspected, correctly as it turned out, that the former president's regular phone was tapped.

But the real Paul Bismuth, a real estate agent from Netanya, was not impressed.

When Bismuth learned that his name had been used to acquire a mobile phone for Sarkozy, he called Herzog’s offices to demand an explanation. “I told him that I was shocked and surprised by what had been done. I got directly to the point. He didn’t really admit anything, but beat around the bush instead,” Bismuth said.

It turns out that Herzog and Bismuth have known each other since their secondary school days in Paris in the mid-1960s. “We were buddies, we drank coffee together, we laughed,” Bismuth told French weekly L’Express.

After graduation, the two went their separate ways, losing touch. “He went on to study law and I took a different path. I followed the rest of his career in the media,” Bismuth said, adding that they only have a few friends in common from their school days.

According to Bismuth, Herzog told his one-time friend that he had simply used the first name that came to mind, and had not intended to hurt him.

Identity theft in France carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a fine of 15,000 euros.