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Sarkozy Convicted of Campaign Finance Violations From 2012

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 9/30/2021 Gaspard Sebag

(Bloomberg) -- Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of deliberately breaking campaign-finance rules in his failed 2012 re-election bid, in another humiliating defeat for the former French president after his conviction for corruption earlier this year. 

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The Paris criminal court ruled Thursday that Sarkozy brushed aside accountants’ warnings and knowingly exceeded spending limits in a bid to win over voters. Judge Caroline Viguier handed him a one-year sentence but his lawyer said he would appeal, which suspends its entry into force.

French Presidential Election 2012- Awaiting Results Announcments in Party Headquarters © Photographer: Marc Piasecki/Getty Images Europe French Presidential Election 2012- Awaiting Results Announcments in Party Headquarters

Sarkozy “had been warned in writing” by accountants yet “continued to host rallies,” allowing spending to spiral out of control, Viguier said. “It wasn’t his first campaign, he had experience as a candidate.”

In Thursday’s ruling, French judges said Sarkozy’s relentless campaigning racked up costs of around 42.7 million euros ($49.5 million), or about twice as much as was legally allowed. During the trial, Sarkozy denied all the allegations saying he had to defend his honor with “passion.”

It’s another humiliating defeat for Sarkozy who was convicted of corruption earlier this year. Despite this, he remains influential and well-liked among right-wing voters. Current president Emmanuel Macron and Sarkozy are on friendly terms, and members of his Les Republicains party are anxious to know who he will back in the 2022 presidential election.

“Did this campaign cost twice that of 2007? That’s implausible,” Sarkozy testified in June. “It didn’t cost what they say.”

Ruling In Election Overspend Trial Of Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy © Bloomberg Ruling In Election Overspend Trial Of Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy didn’t appear in court on Thursday. His lawyer Thierry Herzog said to journalists his client intended to appeal, adding that he has been unfairly convicted to the maximum sentence.

Judge Viguier said the former leader of the French Republic could have served his 12-month sentence by wearing an electronic bracelet but that threat was removed with the intention to appeal.

Bygmalion Affair

The case is known as the Bygmalion affair, after a communications company hired to organize Sarkozy’s rallies during the 2012 election fight. It has become a symbol of the bitter infighting within the ranks of the center-right party he used to lead, with various factions trying to shift the blame throughout the investigation.

Since leaving office, Sarkozy’s life has been a legal marathon. In March, he was found guilty of corruption in a job-for-favors scandal, becoming the country’s second head of state in the modern era to be convicted after leaving office, and the first to get a non-suspended sentence. Late President Jacques Chirac had a two-year suspended term in 2011 for misusing Paris city funds.

Prior to his legal woes, Sarkozy had climbed the ladder of French politics at a breathtaking pace. Mayor of a rich Paris suburban town before he hit 30 and elected to parliament shortly after, Sarkozy took his first ministerial role in 1993.

Elected as president in 2007 he is known for his brash style and made an unsuccessful comeback in 2016, losing the contest to be the center-right presidential candidate in the following year’s election.

In recent months, he’s said he wouldn’t attempt yet another comeback.

(Adds Sarkozy denial from trial in sixth paragraph)

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