Why Former French President Sarkozy Was Sentenced To One Year Of House Arrest For Flouting Campaign Spending Rules

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Former French President Sarkozy

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been convicted and sentenced to one year of house arrest for illegal campaign financing of his unsuccessful 2012 re-election bid.

The court will allow Sarkozy to serve the sentence at home by wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet.

Sarkozy, France’s president from 2007 to 2012, had vigorously denied wrongdoing during the trial in May and June. He can appeal the decision, which would suspend the sentence.

Sarkozy was not present at the Paris court for the ruling.

He was accused of having spent almost twice the maximum legal amount of 22.5 million euros (£19.4 million) on the re-election bid that he lost to Socialist Francois Hollande.

The court stated that Sarkozy “knew” the legal limit was at stake and “voluntarily” failed to supervise additional expenses.

Prosecutors had requested a six-month prison term, as well as a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of 3,750 euros (£3,230).

Thursday’s verdict comes after Sarkozy, 66, was found guilty on March 1 of corruption and influence-peddling in another case. He was sentenced to one year in prison, and two years suspended, in that case but is free pending appeal.

In the campaign financing case, prosecutors concluded that Sarkozy knew weeks before the 2012 election that his expenses — which are strictly limited under French law — were getting close to the legal maximum. They accused him of having ignored two notes from his accountants warning about the money issue.

Prosecutors argued Sarkozy is “the only person responsible for his campaign financing” and that he chose to exceed the limit by organising several rallies, including very large ones.

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

He denied any “fraudulent intent”.

He also insisted he did not handle the day-to-day organisation because he had a team to do that and therefore could not be blamed for the amount of spending.

Thirteen other people, in addition to the former president, went on trial, including members of his conservative Republicans party, accountants and heads of the communication group in charge of organising the rallies, Bygmalion.

They face charges including forgery, breach of trust, fraud and complicity in illegal campaign financing.

Some have acknowledged wrongdoing and detailed the system of false invoices that aimed to cover up the overspending.

Prosecutors have requested mostly suspended prison sentences, and up to one year in prison for Bygmalion’s co-founder.

Sarkozy retired from active politics in 2017, but is still playing a role behind the scenes. French media have reported that he is involved in the process of choosing a conservative candidate ahead of the country’s presidential election next year.

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