An old affair is making headlines again: The excessive spending of Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2012 reelection campaign was reportedly covered up. Another round is underway in court.
Paris (AP) – After a false start in March, the trial of French ex-head of state Nicolas Sarkozy has now really begun over allegedly outrageous costs of the election campaign.
The 66-year-old did not appear in court on Thursday and was represented by his lawyer, news channel Franceinfo and other French media report. However, all other 13 defendants came to the new Palace of Justice of Paris.
The court suspended the trial about two months ago immediately after it started because a suspect’s lawyer was being treated in hospital.
Sarkozy, who ruled the Élysée Palace from 2007 to 2012, has been accused of illegally funding the campaign for his 2012 reelection. The former civil rights hope is threatened with a one-year prison sentence and a fine of EUR 3,750. He had denied the allegations. According to media reports, Sarkozy is not expected to be heard in court until mid-June.
The former president had only been sentenced to three years in prison at the beginning of March, two of which had been suspended, for another affair involving bribery and illicit influence.
No president of the «Fifth Republic» of France, founded in 1958, has been so severely punished. Sarkozy had announced that he would appeal. “Sarko”, as he is often called in the country, has turned his back on politics, but is pulling the strings in the background and is considered influential.
The remaining 13 defendants in the reelection campaign are held accountable for fraud or complicity. Jérôme Lavrilleux, who was once vice president of the election campaign, is one of them.
Sarkozy’s former UMP party, now rebranded as Republican, would not have taken campaign costs into account as such. For this there should have been a system of fictitious invoices. At that time, the permitted upper limit for expenditure was EUR 22.5 million. In fact, as much as EUR 42.8 million would have been spent. The background to this is the “Bygmalion Affair” around a communications agency bearing this name.
According to the media, Sarkozy is not accused of creating the system of fictitious invoices – but he is said to have ignored two warnings from accountants. The conservative lost to his socialist challenger François Hollande in 2012.
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