PARIS — A French court docket on Thursday sentenced Nicolas Sarkozy, the previous president, to a 12 months of home arrest for illegally financing his failed 2012 re-election marketing campaign by wildly exceeding France’s strict electoral spending limits.
Mr. Sarkozy, 66, was president from 2007 to 2012. Although he’s now not energetic in politics and continues to be dogged by a number of authorized entanglements, he’s nonetheless an influential voice on the French proper. Shortly after the decision, his lawyer introduced that Mr. Sarkozy would attraction the conviction, which places the sentence on maintain and leaves him free.
“I’m solely asking that the legislation be utilized to me as it might be to another citizen,” he mentioned in a assertion printed on Twitter afterward Thursday.
It was the second of a number of authorized instances pending for Mr. Sarkozy to finish with a conviction in latest months, and the primary time he was convicted for actions that he undertook whereas in workplace, additional threatening to tarnish his legacy.
In March, he turned the primary former president in France’s latest historical past to be sentenced to precise jail time after he was convicted on fees of corruption and affect peddling for making an attempt to illegally receive info from a decide on a authorized case in opposition to him.
Mr. Sarkozy has appealed that conviction as properly, and he’s unlikely to spend time behind bars within the close to future. Appeals may take years to undergo the courts, and even when Thursday’s sentence is upheld, the court docket that convicted Mr. Sarkozy mentioned he would be capable of serve it at residence with an digital monitoring bracelet.
Nonetheless, Mr. Sarkozy is now solely the second former president in France’s fashionable historical past to be convicted of a criminal offense — Jacques Chirac was discovered responsible in 2011 of embezzling and misusing public funds when he was mayor of Paris.
The decision in opposition to Mr. Sarkozy on Thursday got here after a yearslong investigation and a trial in Could and June, each of which targeted on his 2012 re-election marketing campaign and on France’s stringent electoral guidelines.
Underneath French legislation, spending on electoral campaigns is capped to make sure candidates compete on a stage enjoying subject. In 2012, the restrict for presidential campaigns, per candidate, was about €16.8 million, or about $19.7 million, within the first spherical of the elections, and about €5.7 million, or about $6.7 million, on prime of that within the second spherical for the 2 prime vote-getters, who included Mr. Sarkozy.
However suspicions that his marketing campaign had exceeded these limits arose after the election. Prosecutors started an investigation in 2014, inflicting turmoil inside Mr. Sarkozy’s political social gathering.
Finally, prosecutors decided that the marketing campaign had spent not less than €42 million, or about $50 million — virtually twice the authorized restrict.
The case turned referred to as the Bygmalion affair, named for the general public relations and occasion planning firm suspected of issuing false invoices to Mr. Sarkozy’s political social gathering for rallies that had been really for Mr. Sarkozy’s presidential marketing campaign. Prosecutors argued that the aim of the fraud was to cover the overspending from the electoral authorities.
Mr. Sarkozy has denied being conscious of any false billing, and he was not charged with wrongdoing in that regard. As a substitute, the fees of unlawful marketing campaign financing relate solely to the overspending, for which he has already paid a high quality.
Throughout the trial, Mr. Sarkozy rejected the prosecution’s portrayal of a lavish marketing campaign, suggesting that the false invoices had been used as a substitute to counterpoint Bygmalion — led on the time by shut associates of Jean-François Copé, the president of Mr. Sarkozy’s social gathering and one of many former chief’s political rivals.
Mr. Sarkozy additionally claimed that in 2012 he had been extraordinarily busy together with his presidential duties and had barely been concerned with the marketing campaign’s budgeting and logistics.
“I used to be president, head of the Group of 20, and within the marketing campaign, I used to be directing political technique,” Mr. Sarkozy informed the court docket in June. “Organizing rallies, the sound techniques, the lighting — I had higher issues to do.”
However prosecutors asserted — and the court docket agreed — that Mr. Sarkozy had uncared for warnings from his aides, particularly over a profusion of marketing campaign occasions, a few of them costly, large-scale rallies. As a veteran politician with years of expertise, they argued, he couldn’t have ignored indicators that spending was uncontrolled.
“This was not his first electoral marketing campaign,” the court docket famous in its ruling.
13 different individuals had been additionally accused of involvement within the fraud, together with former marketing campaign employees members, social gathering officers, aides near Mr. Sarkozy and former executives at Bygmalion.
All had been convicted on Thursday and handed jail sentences starting from two years to a few and a half years — a few of that point suspended and a few of it underneath home arrest. A number of of the accused additionally acquired fines.
However prosecutors concluded that there was not sufficient proof to find out who had masterminded the false billing scheme within the first place.
Mr. Sarkozy has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing within the internet of authorized instances that has plagued him since he left workplace. A few of them have been dropped, together with one through which he was accused of manipulating the heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune into financing his 2007 presidential run.
However Mr. Sarkozy continues to be dogged by accusations that his marketing campaign acquired unlawful financing from the federal government of the Libyan strongman Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, who died in 2011. The investigation into these accusations, essentially the most critical one in opposition to him up to now, continues to be persevering with.
Regardless of a failed comeback try in 2016, Mr. Sarkozy continues to be fashionable with the bottom of his conservative social gathering, Les Républicains, which has but to choose a candidate for the 2022 presidential elections. Mr. Sarkozy’s endorsement is coveted by lots of these jockeying for the place.
Christian Jacob, the top of Les Républicains, known as the conviction “surprising” and mentioned Mr. Sarkozy had his social gathering’s full help.
“I wish to categorical, in my title and within the title of Les Républicains, our affection, our help for Nicolas Sarkozy and our immense pleasure of getting had him as President of the Republic,” Mr. Jacob mentioned on Twitter.
Fixed Méheut contributed reporting.