Sarkozy sentenced to one-year house arrest in campaign financing case

30 September 2021, 12:14

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy
Paris Saint-Germain v Liverpool – UEFA Champions League – Group C – Parc des Princes. Picture: PA

The former French president had vigorously denied wrongdoing during the trial in May and June.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been convicted and sentenced to one year of house arrest for illegal campaign financing of his unsuccessful 2012 re-election bid, will appeal the ruling, his lawyer has said.

The court said Sarkozy would be allowed to serve the one-year sentence at home by wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet.

Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, noted that the sentence corresponded to the maximum his client faced. He said he had spoken with Sarkozy, who had asked him to appeal.

“The verdict won’t be enforceable” pending appeal, he added.

Sarkozy's lawyer Thierry Herzog, left, arrives at the Paris courthouse
Sarkozy’s lawyer Thierry Herzog, centre right, arrives at the Paris courthouse (Michel Euler/AP)

Sarkozy, French president from 2007 to 2012, had vigorously denied wrongdoing during the trial in May and June.

Sarkozy was not present at the Paris court for the ruling.

He is accused of having spent almost twice the maximum legal amount of 22.5 million euros (£19.4 million) on the re-election bid that he lost to Socialist Francois Hollande.

The court stated that Sarkozy “knew” the legal limit was at stake and “voluntarily” failed to supervise additional expenses.

Thursday’s verdict comes after Sarkozy, 66, was found guilty on March 1 of corruption and influence-peddling in another case. He was sentenced to one year in prison, and two years suspended, in that case but is free pending appeal.

It is the first time in France’s modern history that a former president has been convicted and sentenced to a prison term for actions during his term.

Former president of Bygmalion event company  Guy Alves, right, and his lawyer arrive at the court for the verdict
Former president of Bygmalion event company Guy Alves, right, and his lawyer arrive at the court for the verdict (Michel Euler/AP)

Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was found guilty in 2011 of misuse of public money during his time as Paris mayor and was given a two-year suspended prison sentence.

In the campaign financing case, prosecutors concluded that Sarkozy knew weeks before the 2012 election that his expenses — which are strictly limited under French law — were getting close to the legal maximum.

They accused him of having ignored two notes from his accountants warning about the money issue.

The court said on Thursday that despite being aware of the risk of exceeding the limit, he chose to organise many rallies, including some very large ones.

“These rallies have been approved by Nicolas Sarkozy and he took advantage of them,” the court said.

During the trial, Sarkozy told the court the extra money did not go into his campaign, but instead helped make other people richer.

Nicolas Sarkozy at court in March
Nicolas Sarkozy attends court in March (Michel Euler/AP)

He denied any “fraudulent intent”.

He also insisted he did not handle the day-to-day organisation because he had a team to do that and therefore could not be blamed for the amount of spending.

Thirteen other people, in addition to the former president, went on trial, including members of his conservative Republicans party, accountants and heads of the communication group in charge of organising the rallies, Bygmalion.

They have all been found guilty, with sentences ranging from a suspended prison sentence to two years of house arrest with an electronic bracelet. Various charges include forgery, fraud and complicity in illegal campaign financing.

Some have acknowledged wrongdoing and detailed the system of false invoices that aimed to cover up the overspending.

Sarkozy retired from active politics in 2017, but is still playing a role behind the scenes. French media have reported that he is involved in the process of choosing a conservative candidate ahead of the country’s presidential election next year.

By Press Association

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