Ex-French president Sarkozy faces corruption trials
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is to face trials for alleged illegal use of funds in his 2012 presidential election campaign.
The decision by France’s highest appeals court means the divisive head of state will probably face two separate cases in the coming months.
Sarkozy, 64, is accused of overspending by more than €20-million in his failed 2012 campaign.
The trial date has not been set.
Prosecutors allege Sarkozy spent nearly €43 million during the presidential race, which he lost convincingly to the Socialist François Hollande.
The other trial is for “active corruption” and seeking to influence a judge, charges which carry sentences of 10 years in jail and a €150,000 fine and five-year term and a €500,000 fine, respectively.
Sarkozy attempted this week to avoid a trial over illegal campaign finance allegations at the Cour de Cassation, the country’s highest court.
His lawyer said judges previously accused him only of minor overspending beyond the agreed limit: “The only thing he is accused of is exceeding the [campaigning] limit by €360,000.”
He acknowledged Sarkozy faced a year in jail and a fine of €3,750.
Investigating magistrates say Sarkozy’s campaign used fake invoices to dodge French spending limits through a PR company called Bygmalion. To keep hide the spending, the firm invoiced Sarkozy’s party, rather than his campaign, investigators say.
No direct evidence of Sarkozy’s involvement or knowledge of the payments has been prevented but prosecutors say it unlikely he was unaware about such considerable overspending.
Sarkozy claims he was unaware of the fraud, blaming executives at Bygmalion, some of whom have admitted guilt. There are 13 other defendants in the case.
There was a text message from the campaign team warning of low funds and a response saying the president was aware of the issue.
Sarkozy’s lawyer Emmanuel Piwnica said the ruling was a “disappointment”.
“Sarko” also faces a different trial for allegedly attempting to bribe a judge in a separate investigation.
He is also under investigation in a separate party funding investigation over whether he had secretly received €50 million from the veteran Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi to fund his triumphant 2007 presidential campaign.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy with ex-US president Barack Obama. Picture credit: Wikimedia