French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy sentenced to one year for illegal campaign financing

Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s former president, has been sentenced to a year in jail after being found guilty of illegal campaign financing in the 2012 election.

But a judge said the 66-year-old, who held office from 2007 to 2012, can serve the sentence from home by wearing an electronic ankle bracelet.

Prosecutors had been asking for at least six months of actual jail time for Sarkozy, along with a six month suspended sentence.

It comes six months after Sarkozy was sentenced to one year of jail time with two years suspended for trying to bribe a judge.

He is currently free on bail pending an appeal in that case, and is also expected to appeal today’s ruling.  

Nicolas Sarkozy, who was French President from 2007 until 2012, has been found guilty of illegal campaign financing over the election he lost to Francois Hollande

Sarkozy laso has more corruption trials coming up, including claims that he received millions in laundered money from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. 

In the campaign financing case, Sarkozy had been accused of spending almost double the £19.5million allotted for reelection campaigns under French law during the 2012 reelection bid he lost to Francois Hollande.

Prosecutors say Sarkozy was warned close to election day that his campaign had almost reached the spending limit, but that he continued organising large rallies.

The campaign eventually spent nearly £37million, but could not prevent Sarkozy from losing to Mr Hollande. 

Sarkozy’s allies were then accused of working with a PR company called Bygmalion to cover up the spending.

The court heard how Sarkozy officials came up with the idea of setting up bogus ‘conventions’ that would appear on false invoices as part of the cover-up. 

Prosecutors said Sarkozy was not directly involved in the scheme, but must have known that his campaign had over-spent and ‘voluntarily’ turned a blind eye to it.

Lawyers also argued that, as head of the campaign, he must bear ultimate responsibility for how it was run. 

The scandal has become known in France as the ‘Bygmalion case’, after the PR firm involved in it.

Sarkozy refused to face the judge at Paris’s Correctional Court today and left his legal team to represent him, just as he has done throughout the process. 

Sarkozy was not in court and was instead represented by lawyer Thierry Herzog (pictured), with the judge reprimanding him for 'undermining democracy' by not showing up

Sarkozy was not in court and was instead represented by lawyer Thierry Herzog (pictured), with the judge reprimanding him for ‘undermining democracy’ by not showing up

The snub led to severe criticism, with prosecutors Vanessa Perrée and Nicolas Baïetto accusing him of ‘undermining the values of democracy’. 

Sarkozy was in the dock with 13 associates including members of his conservative Republicans party, accountants and heads of the Bygmalion group.

Former colleagues found guilty alongside him included Jerome Lavrilleux and Guillaume Lambert. 

Three of the defendants, who were connected to the PR agency Bygmalion, admitted producing fake receipts.

Others are facing charges including forgery, breach of trust, fraud and complicity in illegal campaign financing, and have pleaded not guilty.

Sarkozy, a right-wing conservative whose party was called the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) had denied any wrongdoing. 

In March, Sarkozy was convicted of corruption and influence peddling and sentenced to three years in prison, two of them suspended.

If still found guilty on appeal, he is likely to be able to serve his sentence at the home he shares with his third wife, the former supermodel Carla Bruni, 53, while wearing an electronic tag.

Sarkozy is also facing allegations that he received millions in laundered money from the late Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Sarkozy’s conservative predecessor as President of France, the late Jacques Chirac, received a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for corruption, but this related to his time as Mayor of Paris.

The last French head of state to go to a prison cell was Marshall Philippe Pétain, the wartime Nazi collaborator.