Former French President Sarkozy faces verdict in campaign finance trial

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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy will know on Thursday whether he faces a second prison sentence when a court delivers its verdict on massive overspending on his 2012 re-election campaign.

The 66-year-old remains an extremely popular and influential figure on the right despite being caught up in multiple investigations since he was kicked out of the Elysee Palace after a single term in 2012.

In March, he became the first post-war French president to be sentenced to prison after being sentenced to three years, including two years suspended, for corruption and trading in influence in connection with attempts to obtain favors from a judge.

Sarkozy’s predecessor and mentor, Jacques Chirac, received a two-year suspended prison sentence in 2011 for corruption while he was mayor of Paris.

Sarkozy quickly appealed his verdict and, according to French sentencing guidelines, he has yet to be put behind bars – judges said he could wear an electronic ankle bracelet.

Three months later, he was back on the dock for his lavish 2012 re-election campaign.

Prosecutors in the case are seeking a six-month prison sentence for illegal campaign financing, an offense punishable by a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of 3,750 euros ($ 4,500).

It is not clear whether Sarkozy, who claims to be hunted by justice, will return to court for the verdict.

He only attended one day of his five-week interrogation trial, a snub that infuriated prosecutors who accused him of acting “as if he was not responsible under the law. like everyone”.

The prosecution said the accountants warned Sarkozy he was about to exceed the official spending limit of 22.5 million euros ($ 27 million), but insisted on organizing more. events to push back his ultimately victorious socialist rival, François Hollande.

In the end, his campaign expenses amounted to at least 42.8 million euros, almost double the legal limit.

‘Accounting detail’

Sarkozy told the court he had been too busy running the country to pay attention to an “accounting detail” and that the allegations that he was reckless with public money were “a fairy tale”.

The affair is known as the Bygmalion Affair, named after the public relations firm hired to orchestrate a blitz of lavish American-style election rallies.

Bygmalion leaders admitted to using a system of bogus invoices to hide the true cost of events.

However, the investigation failed to prove that Sarkozy was directly involved in the fraud.

The case did not generate much public interest, the accusations being seen as less sensational than the corruption charges which had already dented any prospect of Sarkozy’s return.

In 2016, he tried to reconquer the Elysee Palace but failed to win the presidential nomination of the UMP party, since renamed Les Républicains.

Despite his political setbacks and legal woes, Sarkozy still enjoys considerable influence in French politics, with conservative candidates in next year’s presidential election vying for his endorsement.

(AFP)


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