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Sarkozy to face trial over election fraud

February 7, 2017

Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to be tried over alleged fraudulent financing of his 2012 re-election bid, prosecutors say. Sarkozy has been fighting for months to keep the case out of court.

Frankreich Präsidentschafts-Vorwahl Nicolas Sarkozy
Image: Picture-Alliance/dpa/Epa/I. Langsdon

France's former President Nicolas Sarkozy is to face trial over accusations that he exceeded the legal spending limit in his failed 2012 re-election campaign, the Paris prosecutor's office said on Tuesday. 

One of two judges in charge of the case, Serge Tournaire, decided that the case should go to trial after the failure of Sarkozy's legal efforts to prevent it in December, a legal source said.

The prosecution claims Sarkozy "greatly exceeded" a spending limit of 22.5 million euros ($24 million) by using false billing from a public relations firm called Bygmalion.

'Inane decision'

The prosecutor's office said that 13 others would also face trial in connection with the affair.

Thierry Herzog, Sarkozy's lawyer, described the decision as "inane" said he would appeal it.

If convicted, the 62-year-old conservative politician would face a one-year prison sentence.

Questioned by police in September 2015, Sarkozy said he did not recall ever being warned about the accounting and described the controversy as a "farce."

Run of scandals

Sarkozy - who was defeated in November in the center-right Republicans' primary by his own former prime minister, Francois Fillon - was put under formal investigation last February, when he was questioned by magistrates at the Paris financial prosecutor's office over claims of dual accounting and the discovery of 18 million euros in false invoices issued by Bygmalion.

Sarkozy's ambitions over the years have been regularly hit by scandals, including allegations he used money from the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to fund his 2007 campaign and that he was involved in kickbacks from an arms deal in the 1990s.

Only one other president - Jacques Chirac - has been tried in France's Fifth Republic since its founding in 1958. Chirac was give a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 over a fake-job scandal.

Fillon, who beat rivals including Sarkozy to become the center-right candidate in this year's presidential elections, is also embroiled in a financial scandal over payments of public funds to his wife and children.

French politicians have come under increased scrutiny ahead of the elections in April and May.

jbh/tj (AFP, Reuters, AP)