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Sarkozy faces trial for campaign finance fraud

October 1, 2019

The former French president claims he was unaware of a scheme that allowed him to double the legal spending limit. Despite spending €43 million in his campaign, he still lost.

Nicolas Sarkozy
Image: picture-alliance/EPA/E. Lemaistre

French former President Nicolas Sarkozy will face trial for alleged campaign financing violations, a court ruled on Tuesday.

Sarkozy lost an appeal to France's highest criminal court to stop the trial going ahead. He risks up to a year in prison and a fine of €3,750 ($4,085) if found guilty on the charges.

Prosecutors allege the 64-year-old spent nearly €43 million on his failed 2012 re-election bid, almost double the legal limit, using fake invoices.

Separately, he is also facing charges of corruption and influence peddling for allegedly trying extract information from a judge about an investigation focused on him.

Read more: Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy to face corruption trial

Blames PR firm

He claimed he was unaware of the fraud, blaming executives at the public relations firm Bygmalion. Those executives, some of whom have admitted guilt, are among 13 others being pursued in the case. The PR firm issued fraudulent invoices to cover the obfuscate the campaign's spending.

Investigating magistrates found no evidence that Sarkozy set up the fraudulent system or took part in it, but they said it was unlikely that he had left it solely to staff to take decisions on such matters.

His lawyer Emmanuel Piwnica said the ruling was a "disappointment." The trial date has not been set.

The former Republican party leader has faced a series of corruption and campaign finance allegations since losing the election to Francois Hollande, including one allegation that he accepted millions of euros from the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi for his first presidential campaign in 2007.

Earlier on Tuesday, prosecutors announced that former French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur would face trial over allegations that kickbacks from a submarine deal with Pakistan helped finance his 1995 presidential campaign, when he ultimately finished third in the first-round vote, failing to advance to the run-off.

aw/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)