French Ex-President Sarkozy On Trial Over Campaign Financing

(FILES) Nicolas Sarkozy, who must be tried at the end of 2020 in the so-called “tapping” case, will appear from March 17 to April 15, 2021 in a second trial on his campaign costs for the 2012 presidential election, the prosecution confirmed on September 3, 2020. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

 

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy went on trial Thursday over claims of illicit financing for his failed 2012 re-election campaign, just weeks after the rightwing heavyweight was convicted in a landmark corruption case.

Sarkozy, 66, became France’s first post-war president to be sentenced to prison when judges gave him a three-year term in March for corruption and influence peddling, though under sentencing rules he is not likely to spend any time behind bars.

In Thursday’s proceedings, he and 13 others are accused of setting up or benefiting from a fake billing scheme to cover millions of euros in excess spending on campaign rallies to fend off his Socialist rival Francois Hollande.

Prosecutors say accountants had warned Sarkozy that the campaign was set to blow past the 22.5 million euro ($26.7 million) spending cap, but that he insisted on holding more events.

Eventually the campaign spent nearly 43 million euros, though Sarkozy says he was unaware of the scheme. Unlike some of the defendants he is not charged with fraud, but with the lesser offence of illegal campaign financing.

If convicted, he risks up to a year in prison and a fine of 3,750 euros.

Sarkozy did not appear in court when the trial opened, but he has been ordered to appear for questioning the week of June 14.

The trial was originally set for March but was postponed after a lawyer for a key witness was hospitalised with Covid-19. It is now set to run until June 22.

– ‘Runaway train’ –
The case is one of several to have dogged Sarkozy since he left office and which have torpedoed hopes among his allies that he could muster a comeback and challenge Emmanuel Macron for the presidency next year.

He has denied any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of a vindictive judicial system that widely opposed his reform efforts while in power from 2007 to 2012.

He has appealed the corruption conviction, handed down after a judge ruled that he plotted with his former lawyer and friend Thierry Herzog to obtain and share confidential information from a judge about an inquiry into Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign financing.

The latest case is known as the Bygmalion affair, after the name of the public relations firm hired to orchestrate a blitz of elaborately staged rallies when polls showed that Sarkozy’s 2012 re-election was far from assured.

Bygmalion executives have acknowledged a system of fake invoices to pass the bills to Sarkozy’s UMP party, since renamed Les Republicains, including the deputy manager of the campaign, Jerome Lavrilleux.

Lavrilleux made headlines in 2014 after he tearfully confessed to the scam during a French TV interview, saying: “This campaign was a runaway train that no one had the courage to stop.”

Campaign officials refused to reimburse the spending after investigators discovered the fraud, prompting the UMP to launch a “Sarkothon” that raised 11 million euros towards his costs.

Sarkozy, who married the singer and former model Carla Bruni while in office, is also facing charges that he received millions of euros from the former Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi for his 2007 election campaign.

And in January, prosecutors opened a probe into alleged influence-peddling involving his activities as a consultant in Russia.

Yet Sarkozy remains a popular figure on the right, attracting long lines of fans last summer seeking autographs of his latest memoir, “The Time of Storms”, which topped best-seller lists for weeks.

French Court Convicts Ex-President Sarkozy On Corruption Charges

In this file photo taken on December 10, 2020, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy looks on as he arrives for the last day of his trial on corruption charges at Paris courthouse. Bertrand GUAY / AFP

 

A French court on Monday convicted former President Nicolas Sarkozy on charges of corruption and influence peddling, handing him a three-year prison sentence of which two years are suspended.

Sarkozy was accused of offering to help a judge obtain a senior job in Monaco in exchange for inside information on an inquiry into his campaign finances.

Taking into account the two years suspended, the sentence of one year jail means it is unlikely Sarkozy will physically go to prison, a punishment that in France usually applies to jail terms of above two years.

French Ex-President Sarkozy To Face Campaign Finance Trial In March

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 21, 2019 Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech as he attends the conference marking the fiftieth anniversary of the election of Georges Pompidou to the Presidency of the French Republic: “With Georges Pompidou, think France: inheritances and perspectives” in Paris. Thomas SAMSON / AFP.

 

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy will stand trial in March on charges of campaign finance violations during his failed 2012 re-election bid, prosecutors said Thursday.

Sarkozy, who already faces a separate trial for corruption involving a judge, is accused of spending nearly double the legal campaign spending limit of 22.5 million euros ($26.6 million).

The trial was ordered last year after his lawyers failed with legal manoeuvres to avoid prosecution. If convicted he risks a one-year prison sentence.

Investigators claim that Sarkozy’s campaign used fake invoices to get around the campaign spending limits.

But Sarkozy, 65, has claimed he was unaware of a fraud he says was orchestrated by executives at the public relations firm Bygmalion.

Thirteen other people, including a number of Bygmalion executives, have also been charged in the case, scheduled to run from March 17 to April 15.

In October, Sarkozy will become the country’s first former head of state to stand trial on corruption charges, in a case where he is accused of trying to secure classified information from a judge.

Prosecutors say he offered to help the judge obtain a cushy post in Monaco in exchange for the information, leading to charges of corruption and influence peddling.

Sarkozy has been charged over accusations by former members of Moamer Kadhafi’s regime that he accepted millions from the slain Libyan dictator, some of it delivered in cash-stuffed suitcases, for his first presidential campaign in 2007.

He is appealing the charge, and a hearing is expected this month.

Despite his legal woes, Sarkozy is currently enjoying a surge in sales for his latest memoirs, “The Time of Storms,” which recounts the first two years of his presidency.

AFP

French Ex-President Sarkozy To Face Trial Over Corruption

France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy waves as he leaves The Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris on September 30, 2019, following a luncheon after a church service for former French President Jacques Chirac. Bertrand GUAY / AFP

 

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy lost a final court appeal Tuesday against an order that he stand trial for illegal financing of his 2012 election campaign.

Sarkozy, who already faces a separate trial for corruption involving a judge, is accused of spending double the legal limit on his failed re-election bid.

Sarkozy Blasts ‘Lack Of Evidence’ For Corruption Charges

This file photo taken on February 14, 2016 in Paris shows French right-wing Les Republicains (LR) party President, Nicolas Sarkozy during the LR National Council on February 14, 2016 in Paris. LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy blasted what he said was a lack of evidence for corruption charges against him over claims the late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi funded his 2007 election campaign, in his court statement published Thursday.

The day after he was charged in France’s most explosive political scandals in decades, the 63-year-old rightwinger said in the statement published by the Figaro newspaper that he had been in “living hell” since the allegations emerged in 2011.

Demanding he be treated as a witness rather than a suspect, he urged magistrates to consider “the violence of the injustice” if it was proven, as he claims, that the accusations are a “manipulation by the dictator Kadhafi or his gang”.

“In the 24 hours of my detention I have tried with all my might to show that the serious corroborating evidence required to charge someone did not exist,” Sarkozy said.

“I stand accused without any tangible evidence through comments made by Mr Kadhafi, his son, his nephew, his cousin, his spokesman, his former prime minister,” he added, ahead of a television interview on Thursday night.

The allegations that Sarkozy took money from Kadhafi — whom he helped to topple in 2011 — are the most serious out of myriad investigations dogging him since he left office in 2012.

Judges decided they had enough evidence to charge the combative one-term president Wednesday after five years of investigation and two days of questioning in police custody in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

Sarkozy, who served as president from 2007 to 2012, was charged with corruption, illegal campaign financing and concealment of Libyan public money, a judiciary source told AFP.

“I’ve been living the hell of this slander since March 11, 2011,” when the allegations first emerged, Sarkozy said.

He will have six months to appeal the charges, and judges will have to make a further decision about whether they have sufficient proof to take the case to trial.

– Suitcases of cash? –

Since 2013, investigators have been looking into claims by several figures in Kadhafi’s ousted regime, including his son Seif al-Islam, that Sarkozy’s campaign received cash from the dictator.

A few months after his 2007 election Sarkozy gave Kadhafi the red-carpet treatment during a state visit which critics denounced as an attempt to rehabilitate an international pariah long accused of human rights abuses.

In 2011, as NATO-backed forces were driving Kadhafi out of power, Seif al-Islam told the Euronews network that Sarkozy must “give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign”.

The revelations came as Sarkozy was trying to win re-election, but he ultimately lost the 2012 race to Socialist Francois Hollande.

Sarkozy has dismissed the allegations as the rantings of vindictive Kadhafi loyalists who were furious over the French-led military intervention that helped end Kadhafi’s 41-year rule and ultimately led to his death.

He has also sued the investigative website Mediapart for publishing a document allegedly signed by Libya’s intelligence chief showing that Kadhafi agreed to give Sarkozy up to 50 million euros ($62 million).

In his court statement Sarkozy lashed out at Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, who claims to have delivered three cash-stuffed suitcases from Kadhafi in 2006 and 2007, when Sarkozy was preparing his first run for president.

Takieddine, who claimed he provided a total of five million euros in three suitcases to Sarkozy and his then chief of staff Claude Gueant, has “highly suspect characteristics and a questionable past”, Sarkozy said.

“I would like to remind you that he has no proof of any meeting with me during this period 2005-2011.”

Takieddine, after Sarkozy was charged on Wednesday night, had retorted: “I’m not the liar here.”

The legal investigation is also looking into a 500,000-euro foreign cash transfer to Sarkozy’s former interior minister Claude Gueant and the 2009 sale of a luxury villa to a Libyan investment fund.

Le Monde newspaper further reported that other former regime officials have stepped forward alleging illicit financing.

– First ex-president in custody –

In 2014 Sarkozy became the first former French president to be taken into police custody, over a separate inquiry into claims he tried to interfere in another legal investigation against him.

But he is not the first ex-president to be charged with corruption — his predecessor Jacques Chirac was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for embezzlement and misuse of public funds during his time as mayor of Paris.

Sarkozy is already charged in two separate cases, one relating to fake invoices devised to mask overspending on his failed 2012 campaign and another for alleged influence peddling.

Sarkozy has stepped back from frontline politics since his failed re-election bid, but he still holds considerable influence with his rightwing Republicans party.

The party has so far backed him publicly.

“Being charged does not necessarily mean you are guilty,” said Republicans leader Laurent Wauquiez.

French Ex-President Sarkozy Held In Libya Financing Probe

This file photo taken on February 14, 2016 in Paris shows French right-wing Les Republicains (LR) party President, Nicolas Sarkozy during the LR National Council on February 14, 2016 in Paris. LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy was detained for questioning on Tuesday over allegations that late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi financed his 2007 election campaign, including with suitcases stuffed with cash, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.

Sarkozy was taken into police custody early Tuesday morning and was being questioned by officers specialising in corruption, money laundering and tax evasion at their office in the western Parisian suburb of Nanterre.

The 63-year-old was summoned for questioning in France’s most explosive political financing scandal, one of several legal probes that have dogged the right-winger since he left office after one term in 2012.

Sarkozy’s detention was first reported by the Mediapart investigative news site and French daily Le Monde.

AFP’s source said that Brice Hortefeux, a close ally who served as a senior minister during Sarkozy’s presidency, was also questioned Tuesday as part of the inquiry.

Since 2013, investigating magistrates have been probing media reports, as well as statements by Kadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam, that claimed funds were provided for Sarkozy’s first tilt at the presidency.

“Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign,” Seif told the Euronews network in 2011 as NATO-backed forces were driving his father out of power.

Sarkozy has dismissed the allegations as the rantings of vindictive Libyan regime members who were furious over France’s military intervention in Libya that helped end Kadhafi’s 41-year rule and led to his death.

He has also sued Mediapart, which has driven media coverage of the Libyan allegations since 2012 when it published a document allegedly signed by Libya’s intelligence chief showing that Kadhafi had agreed to fund Sarkozy to the tune of 50 million euros ($62 million).

The case drew heightened scrutiny in November 2016 when a Franco-Lebanese businessman admitted delivering three cash-stuffed suitcases from the Libyan leader in 2006 and 2007 as contributions towards Sarkozy’s first presidential run.

In an interview, again with Mediapart, Ziad Takieddine claimed he dropped 1.5 to 2 million euros in 200-euro and 500-euro notes each time and was given the money by Kadhafi’s military intelligence chief Abdallah Senussi.

When asked about the allegations during a televised debate in 2016, Sarkozy called the question “disgraceful” and said the businessman was a “liar” who had been convicted “countless times for defamation”.

The legal investigation is looking into these allegations, as well as a 500,000-euro foreign cash transfer to Sarkozy ally Claude Gueant, and the sale of a luxury villa in 2009 in the south of France to a Libyan investment fund for an allegedly inflated price.

– Ties to Libya –

Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant father who takes a hard line on Islam and French identity, was nicknamed the “bling-bling” president during his time in office for his flashy displays of wealth.

He failed with a bid to run again for president in November 2016 and has stepped back from frontline politics since then, though he remains a powerful figure behind the scenes at the rightwing Republicans party.

Seven months after his 2007 presidential victory, Sarkozy invited Kadhafi to Paris and clinched major arms and nuclear energy sales to the oil-rich north African country, which has since descended into civil war.

The Libyan autocrat was allowed to pitch his Bedouin-style tent on a lawn in central Paris and attended a dinner at the presidential palace, which was boycotted by several of Sarkozy’s ministers.

It is not the first time that Sarkozy has been detained: he became the first French president to enter police custody in July 2014 over a separate inquiry into claims that he tried to interfere in one of the several investigations targeting him.

He was taken into custody on Tuesday after another former associate, Swiss businessman Alexandre Djouhri, was arrested in London in January.

– Other cases –

Investigating magistrates have recommended Sarkozy face trial on separate charges of illegal campaign financing over his failed 2012 re-election bid.

The prosecution claims Sarkozy spent nearly double the legal limit of 22.5 million euros ($24 million) on his lavish campaign, using false billing from a public relations firm called Bygmalion.

He faces up to a year in prison and a fine of 3,750 euros if convicted, but he is appealing the decision to send him to trial, claiming he knew nothing about the fraudulent practices that Bygmalion executives have admitted to.

Only one other French president — Jacques Chirac — has been tried in France’s Fifth Republic, which was founded in 1958. He was given a two-year suspended jail term in 2011 over a fake jobs scandal.

French FN Routed In Key Vote

French FN Routed In Key VoteFrance’s Far-right National front (FN) party has suffered a shocking defeat in  the second round of municipal elections after preliminary results showed that it failed to win a single region.

This means that the party has been beaten into third place, despite leading in six of 13 regions in the first round of voting.

Former President, Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right republicans are set to win most seats ahead of the ruling socialists.

Acknowledging defeat, FN Leader, Marine Le Pen, pledged to keep fighting. She blamed the outcome on the mainstream parties which joined forces to keep the FN from power, telling her supporters they had been “disenfranchised in the most indecent ways by a campaign of lies and disinformation”.

She had stood as a regional presidential candidate in the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, while her niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, was the FN’s candidate in the race in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, in the south.

After both led with more than 40 per cent  of the vote in the first round on December 6, the Socialist candidates in those regions pulled out so their voters could support Republican candidates in the second round.

The FN actually increased its votes in the second round to more than 6.8 million, from 6.02 million on  December 6 as more people voted, according to the Ministry of  Interior (In French). But the FN share of the vote went down slightly from 27.73 per cent to 27.36 per cent.

The Republicans increased their share from 26.65 per cent to 40.63 per cent and the Socialists from 23.12 per cent to 29.14 per cent.

The overall turnout increased from 22.6 million on  December 6 to 26.2 million on Sunday. Sunday’s figures were based on a count of 98 per cent of votes so far.

Court Suspends Corruption Charges Against Sarkozy

Nicolas-SarkozyA court in France has suspended the corruption investigation against former President Nicolas Sarkozy, French media say.

Reports quote judicial sources as saying that Paris appeal court will now study a request by Mr Sarkozy for the case to be dismissed.

However, the 59 years old Sarkozy is not out of the woods yet as he still has several other judicial cases to answer.

Mr Sarkozy has kept a low profile since leaving office but Last week he declared his intention to seek the leadership of the opposition UMP party, a move widely seen as his first step towards a presidential bid in 2017.

His announcement ended months of speculation about the intentions of the conservative former president, who vowed to give up politics after he failed to re-election in 2012.

The UMP party elections are due to be held in November.

Although he has faced a series of investigations that involve him in some capacity

The suspended case relates to an alleged attempt to influence judges who were looking into his affairs.

The BBC quoted AFP report as saying that the suspension could last several months.

Too Many Foreigners in France- President Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says there are too many foreigners in France and has pledged to cut the number of new arrivals in half.

In his words, “Our system of integration is working more and more badly, because we have too many foreigners on our territory and we can no longer manage to find them accommodation, a job, a school”.

Sarkozy stressed that while immigration could remain a boon for France in many areas, it must be tightly controlled through tougher residency qualifications for newcomers.

“Over the five-year term I think that to restart the process of integration in good conditions, we must divide by two the number of people we welcome, that’s to say to pass from 180,000 per year to 100,000,” he said.

Sarkozy also announced new plans to limit some welfare benefit payments currently available to immigrant workers to those who have enjoyed residency for 10 years and have worked for five of those.

Earlier, Sarkozy had been accused of moving to the right in the run up to the presidential election in order to recruit voters tempted by anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen.

France will vote in the first round of a presidential election on April 22, followed by a second-round run-off on May 6.