Former French leader Sarkozy is convicted in campaign financing case
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was convicted Thursday and sentenced to a year of house arrest for illegal campaign financing during his unsuccessful 2012 reelection bid, will appeal the ruling, his lawyer said.
The court had said Sarkozy would be allowed to serve his one-year sentence at home by wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet. But his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said Sarkozy asked him to appeal the sentence.
“The verdict won’t be enforceable” pending appeal, Herzog said.
Sarkozy, France’s president from 2007 to 2012, had vigorously denied wrongdoing during the trial in May and June. Appealing the decision would suspend the sentence.
He wasn’t present at the Paris court for the verdict’s announcement.
He was accused of having spent almost twice the maximum legal amount of 22.5 million euros ($27.5 million) on the reelection bid that he lost to Socialist Francois Hollande.
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The court said that Sarkozy knew his campaign was close to the legal limit and that he “voluntarily” failed to supervise additional expenses. Prosecutors have requested a six-month prison term, as well as a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of about $4,350.
Thursday’s verdict comes after Sarkozy, 66, was found guilty March 1 of corruption and influence-peddling in another case. He was given one year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence in that case but is free pending appeal.
In the campaign-financing case, prosecutors concluded that Sarkozy knew weeks before the 2012 election that his campaign expenses were nearing the legal maximum. They accused him of having ignored two notes from his accountants warning about the money issue.
Prosecutors argued that Sarkozy was “the only person responsible for his campaign financing” and that he chose to exceed the limit by organizing many rallies, including giant ones. “These rallies have been approved by Nicolas Sarkozy, and he took advantage of them,” the court said.
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During his hearing, Sarkozy told the court that the extra money didn’t go into his campaign but instead helped make other people richer. He denied any “fraudulent intent.” He also contended that he didn’t handle the day-to-day organization because he had a team to do that and therefore he couldn’t be blamed for the amount of spending.
In addition to Sarkozy, 13 other people went on trial, including members of his conservative Republicans party, accountants and heads of the communication group, Bygmalion, that was in charge of organizing the rallies. They face charges including forgery, breach of trust, fraud and complicity in illegal campaign financing.
Some have acknowledged wrongdoing and detailed a system of false invoices that aimed to cover up the overspending.
Prosecutors have requested mostly suspended prison sentences, and up to one year in prison for Bygmalion’s co-founder.
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 France’s presidential election next year.
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