PARIS — A French court docket on Thursday sentenced Nicolas Sarkozy, the previous president, to a 12 months of home arrest for illegally financing his failed 2012 re-election marketing campaign by wildly exceeding France’s strict electoral spending limits.
Mr. Sarkozy, 66, was president from 2007 to 2012. Although he’s now not lively in politics and continues to be dogged by a number of authorized entanglements, he’s nonetheless an influential voice on the French proper. Shortly after the decision, his lawyer introduced that Mr. Sarkozy would enchantment the conviction, which places the sentence on maintain and leaves him free.
“I’m solely asking that the regulation be utilized to me as it might be to some other citizen,” he mentioned in a statement revealed on Twitter afterward Thursday.
It was the second of a number of authorized instances pending for Mr. Sarkozy to finish with a conviction in latest months, and the primary time he was convicted for actions that he undertook whereas in workplace, additional threatening to tarnish his legacy.
In March, he grew to become the primary former president in France’s latest historical past to be sentenced to precise jail time after he was convicted on expenses of corruption and affect peddling for making an attempt to illegally acquire data from a choose on a authorized case in opposition to him.
Mr. Sarkozy has appealed that conviction as effectively, and he’s unlikely to spend time behind bars within the close to future. Appeals may take years to undergo the courts, and even when Thursday’s sentence is upheld, the court docket that convicted Mr. Sarkozy mentioned he would be capable to serve it at house with an digital monitoring bracelet.
Nonetheless, Mr. Sarkozy is now solely the second former president in France’s fashionable historical past to be convicted of against the law — Jacques Chirac was discovered responsible in 2011 of embezzling and misusing public funds when he was mayor of Paris.
The decision in opposition to Mr. Sarkozy on Thursday got here after a yearslong investigation and a trial in Could and June, each of which targeted on his 2012 re-election marketing campaign and on France’s stringent electoral guidelines.
Below French regulation, spending on electoral campaigns is capped to make sure candidates compete on a degree enjoying subject. In 2012, the restrict for presidential campaigns, per candidate, was about €16.8 million, or about $19.7 million, within the first spherical of the elections, and about €5.7 million, or about $6.7 million, on high of that within the second spherical for the 2 high vote-getters, who included Mr. Sarkozy.
However suspicions that his marketing campaign had exceeded these limits arose after the election. Prosecutors started an investigation in 2014, inflicting turmoil inside Mr. Sarkozy’s political celebration.
Finally, prosecutors decided that the marketing campaign had spent at the least €42 million, or about $50 million — nearly twice the authorized restrict.
The case grew to become often known as the Bygmalion affair, named for the general public relations and occasion planning firm suspected of issuing false invoices to Mr. Sarkozy’s political celebration for rallies that have been truly for Mr. Sarkozy’s presidential marketing campaign. Prosecutors argued that the purpose of the fraud was to cover the overspending from the electoral authorities.
Mr. Sarkozy has denied being conscious of any false billing, and he was not charged with wrongdoing in that regard. As an alternative, the fees of unlawful marketing campaign financing relate solely to the overspending, for which he has already paid a wonderful.
In the course of the trial, Mr. Sarkozy rejected the prosecution’s portrayal of a lavish marketing campaign, suggesting that the false invoices had been used as an alternative to complement Bygmalion — led on the time by shut mates of Jean-François Copé, the president of Mr. Sarkozy’s celebration and one of many former chief’s political rivals.
Mr. Sarkozy additionally claimed that in 2012 he had been extraordinarily busy together with his presidential duties and had barely been concerned with the marketing campaign’s budgeting and logistics.
“I used to be president, head of the Group of 20, and within the marketing campaign, I used to be directing political technique,” Mr. Sarkozy informed the court docket in June. “Organizing rallies, the sound techniques, the lighting — I had higher issues to do.”
However prosecutors asserted — and the court docket agreed — that Mr. Sarkozy had uncared for warnings from his aides, particularly over a profusion of marketing campaign occasions, a few of them costly, large-scale rallies. As a veteran politician with years of expertise, they argued, he couldn’t have ignored indicators that spending was uncontrolled.
“This was not his first electoral marketing campaign,” the court docket famous in its ruling.
13 different individuals have been additionally accused of involvement within the fraud, together with former marketing campaign employees members, celebration officers, aides near Mr. Sarkozy and former executives at Bygmalion.
All have been convicted on Thursday and handed jail sentences starting from two years to a few and a half years — a few of that point suspended and a few of it below home arrest. A number of of the accused additionally obtained fines.
However prosecutors concluded that there was not sufficient proof to find out who had masterminded the false billing scheme within the first place.
Mr. Sarkozy has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing within the internet of authorized instances that has plagued him since he left workplace. A few of them have been dropped, together with one through which he was accused of manipulating the heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune into financing his 2007 presidential run.
However Mr. Sarkozy remains to be dogged by accusations that his marketing campaign obtained unlawful financing from the federal government of the Libyan strongman Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, who died in 2011. The investigation into these accusations, probably the most severe one in opposition to him up to now, remains to be persevering with.
Regardless of a failed comeback try in 2016, Mr. Sarkozy remains to be in style with the bottom of his conservative celebration, Les Républicains, which has but to decide on a candidate for the 2022 presidential elections. Mr. Sarkozy’s endorsement is coveted by a lot of these jockeying for the place.
Christian Jacob, the pinnacle of Les Républicains, known as the conviction “stunning” and mentioned Mr. Sarkozy had his celebration’s full help.
“I need to categorical, in my identify and within the identify of Les Républicains, our affection, our help for Nicolas Sarkozy and our immense satisfaction of getting had him as President of the Republic,” Mr. Jacob said on Twitter.
Fixed Méheut contributed reporting.