Wed, October 27, 2021

international

Former French president Sarkozy found guilty of illegal campaign financing, likely will avoid prison


PARIS - Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of having illegally financed his unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign and sentenced to one year in prison that can be served at home with electronic monitoring, marking another defeat in court for the 66-year-old. Sarkozy was already convicted and sentenced to prison in a separate trial earlier this year.

He appealed that earlier verdict, delaying it from taking effect, and his lawyer said Thursday that he would also appeal the second conviction. Given that short prison sentences in France can typically be waived, it remains unclear whether Sarkozy would have to spend any time incarcerated, even if both appeals were to be rejected.

The trial that resulted in his second conviction on Thursday centered around accusations that his conservative party falsified accounts during his unsuccessful reelection bid in 2012. French election laws mandate that candidates can only spend a certain amount on their campaigns.

Prosecutors alleged that Sarkozy was involved in a scheme to circumvent those rules and spent almost twice as much as his campaign would have been allowed to. He was one of more than a dozen defendants.

Thursday's ruling followed years of parallel investigations against Sarkozy, who was the French president from 2007 to 2012 and has portrayed the judicial scrutiny of his actions as politically motivated.

Sarkozy said he did not oversee his campaign finances, and he denied "fraudulent intent," but the court on Thursday found that he was aware of the possibility that his campaign would overspend and chose to not step in.

In March, he was handed a three-year prison sentence - of which two years were suspended - after he was found guilty of corruption and influence peddling. The charges were centered on whether he was behind a deal with a magistrate to illegally receive information on an inquiry linked to him, using false names and unofficial phone lines.

Sarkozy also continues to face separate accusations that he received illegal payments from the regime of then-Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi ahead of the 2007 election. Those accusations could weigh more heavily than the charges that led to his convictions this year.

Despite his legal woes, Sarkozy has sought to remain active in French politics, unsuccessfully attempting a run in the 2017 presidential election. He subsequently suggested that his career in politics had come to an end. But among French conservatives, Sarkozy has remained an influential voice and center-right politicians willing to run in next year's vote have sought his support.

Several high-profile members of the conservative Republicans party, which was founded by Sarkozy, on Thursday backed the former president.

Sarkozy is the second former French president in a decade to be sentenced. His predecessor and former patron, Jacques Chirac, was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2011. Chirac was accused of having handed nonexistent jobs to political allies when he was Paris mayor.

Published : October 01, 2021