French ex-president Sarkozy on trial over ‘illegal financing’ of 2012 campaign, two weeks after corruption conviction

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Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has gone on trial over allegations of illicit financing of his failed 2012 re-election bid. The new trial comes just two weeks after he was convicted for influence peddling and corruption.

The hearings kicked off in a Paris court on Wednesday in the ex-leader’s absence.

The case, widely known in France as the Bygmalion affair, stems from allegations of illicit funding of Sarkozy’s failed presidential campaign in 2012. The former president is accused of massive overspending with the help of the now-defunct Bygmalion PR agency.

According to prosecutors, the campaign cost ballooned to nearly double the allowed limit of €22.5 million ($26.7 million) at the time, reaching at least €42.8 million (some $51 million).

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The costs of the campaign got out of control after right-winger Sarkozy met an unexpectedly strong challenge from his socialist rival Francois Hollande. Sarkozy held massive, US-style rallies. However, these failed to help him to secure a victory. To conceal the overspending, Sarkozy along with his associates and Bygmalion allegedly conspired to hide the true costs within an elaborate system of fake invoices.

The former president has consistently denied the accusations against him, insisting that the case was a result of a grudge held by France’s judiciary, which he clashed with during his time in office. Unlike his co-defendants, Sarkozy is not charged with fraud but with a lesser offense of illegal campaign financing. If convicted, the ex-president may face up to a year in jail and a fine.

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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, wearing a protective face mask, arrives for the verdict in his trial on charges of corruption and influence peddling, at Paris courthouse, France, March 1, 2021.  © Reuters / Gonzalo Fuentes
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The new trial comes two weeks after Sarkozy was convicted in a separate corruption case. He was found guilty of graft and influence peddling, receiving one year in jail and two years suspended, becoming the first French leader to get jail time since WWII.

Still, the ex-president is unlikely to get locked up in an actual prison as he is expected to serve his conviction at home, fitted with a tracking bracelet.

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