Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s legal woes continue, as prosecutors have called for a six-month jail term over campaign finance violations during his 2012 reelection bid.
At the end of proceedings in Paris on Thursday, prosecutors demanded a one-year jail term for the former head of state, with six months of it suspended, and a fine of 3,750 euros ($4,500), reported AFP.
“Nicolas Sarkozy clearly regrets nothing because he came to just one hearing,” said prosecutor Vanessa Perree, adding:
“This way of thinking of himself as being above the law, of not being a citizen among others, is the same as it was during the presidential campaign.”
'Cooking the Books'
The criminal trial for Sarkozy and 13 other defendants in what has been dubbed the “Bygmalion scandal” started on 20 May 2021.
The trial hinges on accusations that Sarkozy’s party, then known as The Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and later renamed and succeeded by The Republicans, collaborated with a friendly public relations firm to hide the true cost of his re-election bid, which he lost to Socialist rival Francois Hollande.
Prosecutors allege that the PR firm, Bygmalion, invoiced UMP rather than the campaign, with Sarkozy spending reportedly 42.8 million euros on his 2012 campaign. In France, which has strict limits on campaign spending, this sum is almost double the permitted amount.
The court is seeking to probe whether the former head of state was aware of the system of false invoices wielded to cover up the overspending.
Prosecutors have also demanded a three-year suspended jail term and a fine of 50,000 euros for Sarkozy’s deputy campaign manager, Jerome Lavrilleux, who has admitted to fraud. Suspended terms of 18 months are being urged for three executives from Bygmalion firm, who have admitted to being complicit in the fake billing system. Sarkozy, who retired from active politics in 2017, has denied wrongdoing.
“Did I intend to cook the books, do false invoices, was I not careful enough, was I negligent? The answer is no,” he told the court.
Sarkozy, 66, whose tenure continued from 16 May 2007 to 15 May 2012, has been in the crosshairs of several criminal investigations. In March, he became France’s first post-war president to be given a custodial sentence.
A Paris court slapped him with a three-year term, two years of which were suspended, with the remaining year set to be served at home with an electronic bracelet, for corruption and influence peddling over attempts to secure favors from a judge.
Sarkozy's lawyer Thierry Herzog and a former high-ranking official of the Court of Cassation Gilbert Azibert were also found guilty of corruption in the case.
Sarkozy appealed against that conviction.