French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy sentenced to one year for illegal campaign financing

Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s former president, has been handed a year-long sentence after being found guilty of illegal campaign financing in the 2012 election.

A judge at Paris’s Correctional Court said the 66-year-old, who held office from 2007 to 2012, does not have to go to jail and can serve his term from home by wearing an ankle bracelet.

Prosecutors had been asking for at least six months of actual jail time for Sarkozy, along with a six month suspended sentence. His legal team have filed an appeal, which effectively suspends the sentence until their case is heard. 

There was no immediate reaction from Carla Bruni, Sarkozy’s wife, who has staunchly defended him against corruption allegations in the past. 

Nicolas Sarkozy, who was French President from 2007 until 2012, has been sentenced to one year in jail which he can serve at home with an ankle bracelet over campaign finance violations

Nicolas Sarkozy, who was French President from 2007 until 2012, has been sentenced to one year in jail which he can serve at home with an ankle bracelet over campaign finance violations

Nicolas Sarkozy, who was French President from 2007 until 2012, has been sentenced to one year in jail which he can serve at home with an ankle bracelet over campaign finance violations

Carla Bruni

Carla Bruni

Carla Bruni

Carla Bruni

Carla Bruni, Sarkozy’s wife who has staunchly defended him against corruption allegations, has yet to react to the latest sentence (pictured at Paris Fashion Week last night)

She was photographed on the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week on Wednesday night, seemingly unfazed by the impending verdict.

Thursday’s sentence comes six months after Sarkozy was handed another one-year jail term with two years suspended for trying to bribe a judge.

At the time, Bruni called the verdict ‘senseless harassment’ while vowing to fight on so ‘truth will see the light’. 

Sarkozy’s legal team have also lodged an appeal in that case, meaning he remains a free man for the time being. 

His legal woes are set to continue, however, with more corruption cases pending including allegations that he received millions in laundered money from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. 

It is unlikely that Sarkozy will ever see the inside of a jail cell, but Bruni has alleged that jail time was never the point.

She believes that political enemies of her husband, who is still influential in conservative circles, wanted to disqualify him from taking another run at the presidency – with elections due next year.

‘They’re all lies, incredible lies. I’m so surprised it lasted,’ she told The Times earlier this year.

‘I’m so surprised it became so political, but they achieved their goal because he’s out of politics for ever.’

In the campaign financing case, Sarkozy had been accused of spending almost double the £19.5million allotted for reelection campaigns under French law during the 2012 reelection bid he lost to Francois Hollande.

Prosecutors say Sarkozy was warned close to election day that his campaign had almost reached the spending limit, but that he continued organising large rallies.

The campaign eventually spent nearly £37million, but could not prevent Sarkozy from losing to Mr Hollande.  

Sarkozy’s allies were then accused of working with a PR company called Bygmalion to cover up the spending.

The court heard how Sarkozy officials came up with the idea of setting up bogus ‘conventions’ that would appear on false invoices as part of the cover-up.  

Sarkozy was not in court and was instead represented by lawyer Thierry Herzog (pictured), with the judge reprimanding him for 'undermining democracy' by not showing up

Sarkozy was not in court and was instead represented by lawyer Thierry Herzog (pictured), with the judge reprimanding him for 'undermining democracy' by not showing up

Sarkozy was not in court and was instead represented by lawyer Thierry Herzog (pictured), with the judge reprimanding him for ‘undermining democracy’ by not showing up

During the hearing, Sarkozy’s legal team told the court that the extra money did not go into his campaign, but instead helped make other people richer.

They denied any “fraudulent intent” while insisting that Sarkozy did not handle any day-to-day organisation and could therefore not be blamed. 

Prosecutors admitted that Sarkozy was not directly involved in the scheme, but must have known his campaign over-spent and ‘voluntarily’ turned a blind eye to it.

Lawyers also argued that, as head of the campaign, he must bear ultimate responsibility for how it was run and financed.

The scandal has become known in France as the ‘Bygmalion case’, after the PR firm involved in it.

Sarkozy refused to attend court today and left his legal team to represent him, just as he has done throughout the process. 

The snub led to severe criticism, with prosecutors Vanessa Perrée and Nicolas Baïetto accusing him of ‘undermining the values of democracy’. 

Sarkozy was in the dock with 13 associates including members of his conservative Republicans party, accountants and heads of the Bygmalion group.

Former colleagues found guilty alongside him included Jerome Lavrilleux and Guillaume Lambert. 

Three of the defendants, who were connected to the PR agency Bygmalion, admitted producing fake receipts.

Others are facing charges including forgery, breach of trust, fraud and complicity in illegal campaign financing, and have pleaded not guilty.

Sarkozy, a right-wing conservative whose party was called the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) had denied any wrongdoing. 

In March, Sarkozy was convicted of corruption and influence peddling and sentenced to three years in prison, two of them suspended.

If still found guilty on appeal, he is likely to be able to serve his sentence at the home he shares with his third wife, the former supermodel Carla Bruni, 53, while wearing an electronic tag.

Sarkozy is also facing allegations that he received millions in laundered money from the late Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Sarkozy’s conservative predecessor as President of France, the late Jacques Chirac, received a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for corruption, but this related to his time as Mayor of Paris.

The last French head of state to go to a prison cell was Marshall Philippe Pétain, the wartime Nazi collaborator.

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