Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been found guilty of illegal campaign funding of his failed 2012 re-election bid
Paris – Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty on Thursday of illegal campaign funding of a failed 2012 re-election bid.
Sarkozy was not present in the Paris court to announce the verdict.
He is accused of spending nearly double the maximum legal amount of 22.5 million euros ($27.5 million) that he lost to Socialist Francois Hollande.
The court said Sarkozy “knew” that legal limits were at stake and “voluntarily” failed to oversee additional expenses. Prosecutors have requested a six-month prison term as well as a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of 3,750 euros (4,354).
Thursday’s decision comes after 66-year-old Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption and influence in another case on March 1. He was jailed for one year and suspended for two years in that case, but the appeal is pending.
Prosecutors argued that Sarkozy is “the only person responsible for funding his campaign” and that he opted to cross the border by organizing several rallies, including huge rallies.
During his hearing, Sarkozy told the court that the extra money did not go to his campaign, but to help make other people rich. He denied any “fraudulent intent”. He also emphasized that he does not handle the day-to-day organization as he had a team to do it and hence cannot be blamed for the amount of expenses.
In addition to the former president, 13 others were prosecuted, including Bygmalion, a member of his conservative Republican Party, an accountant and the head of the communications group in charge of organizing the rallies. He faces charges including forgery, breach of trust, fraud and complicity in illegal campaign funding.
Some have admitted wrongdoing and elaborated the system of false invoicing intended to cover up the excess expenses.
Prosecutors have requested a mostly suspended prison sentence, and up to a year in prison for the co-founder of Bygmalion.
Sarkozy retired from active politics in 2017, but still continues to play a role behind the scenes. French media have reported that it is in the process of choosing a conservative candidate ahead of next year’s French presidential election.