Former French President Sarkozy Convicted of Breaking Campaign Finance Laws

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Court sentences politician to one year’s detention, pending appeals

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Mr Sarkozy, who did not appear in court on Thursday, has said he was not aware that the cost of his campaign exceeded the legal spending limit. Sarkozy’s lawyer said he would appeal immediately.

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Under French law, Mr Sarkozy is not required to serve any sentence until the appeals process is over.

Mr Sarkozy’s conviction marks a new blot on the legacy of a former head of state whose conservative Les Républiques party is rooted in law-and-order politics. He remains an influential figure in the French political establishment and has friendly relations with President Emmanuel Macron.

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Earlier this year, Mr Sarkozy was indicted on charges of influence and corruption in a separate case. Mr Sarkozy was sentenced to one year under house arrest and two years of suspended prison sentence for appearing in 2014 for helping a magistrate in the Principality of Monaco in exchange for confidential information about his 2007 finances investigation was heard. presidential campaign. Mr Sarkozy has appealed against this decision.

Prosecutors have also brought preliminary charges of campaign-finance violations and corruption against Mr Sarkozy, who allegedly accepted millions of euros in cash from the regime of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi to finance his 2007 campaign. Mr. Sarkozy refuses to take money from Gaddafi.

In the case decided on Thursday, prosecutors allege that Bygamelion, a media company that helped organize Mr Sarkozy’s 2012 campaign, faked bills to allow his campaign to get around the spending limit set by French law. issued.

Along with Mr Sarkozy, 13 co-defendants were at trial, including former campaign officers, Bygmalion officials and accountants. All were found guilty. Mr Sarkozy’s deputy campaign chief Jerome Lavreilleux was sentenced to three years in prison, one of which was suspended and the other with an electronic bracelet serving him at home, aiding and abetting illegal campaign funding. To give. He told reporters he was unlikely to appeal. “I have had enough,” he said.

Called the Bygmalion Affair by French media, the allegations burst into the open in 2014. During a TV interview that year, Mr Lavrelux appeared close to tears and said that the media company had billed part of the cost of the campaign rather than Mr Sarkozy’s party. Campaign.

The cost of the campaign quickly spiraled out of control, Mr Lavreilleux said. “I didn’t have the courage to say, ‘Wait! We’re running straight into a wall,'” Mr. Lavrelux said during the interview.

Patrick Maisonneuve, a lawyer for Bygmalion, has said the company had no choice but to issue counterfeit bills to get paid for its work organizing campaign meetings. The bills state that Mr Sarkozy’s party was provided with services to organize meetings related to the campaign, he said. He said some of these party meetings were genuine, others were not.

Mr Maisonneuve did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Socialist candidate François Hollande eventually won the election, replacing Mr Sarkozy, who was President of France from 2007 to 2012.

Nick Kostov at [email protected]

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