Sunday, 20 Jun 2021

Former French president Sarkozy returns to Paris courtroom to relive failed election bid

PARIS (BLOOMBERG) – Ex-French president Nicolas Sarkozy will return to a Paris courtroom for the second time in six months as judges scrutinise whether he deliberately broke campaign spending limits in his failed 2012 election bid.

French investigators say Sarkozy ignored accountants’ warnings as his relentless campaigning racked up costs of at least 42.8 million euros (S$69.54 million), or about twice as much as was legally allowed.

The former head of state is expected to be the last among a dozen defendants to testify at the trial, which will run until June 22.

Since leaving office, Sarkozy has had to face a series of allegations of impropriety.

Earlier this year, he became the second French head of state in modern times convicted of a crime when he was found guilty of corruption.

The 66-year-old has also been questioned several times over allegations of illegal funding of his winning 2007 campaign by the regime of Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

After his March conviction, the stakes are lower for Sarkozy this time around in what has become known as the Bygmalion affair, after a communications company hired to organise his rallies during the 2012 election fight.

He faces a maximum one-year jail term and a 3,750-euro fine.

The Bygmalion case has become a symbol of the bitter infighting within the ranks of the centre-right party he used to lead, with various factions trying to shift the blame throughout the investigation.

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Despite his departure from politics, the former French president still attracts media coverage about his perceived closeness to current President Emmanuel Macron, his relationship with model-turned-singer Carla Bruni and his legal woes.

The spending limits court case was due to start in March, but was postponed after a lawyer for another defendant was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Other defendants in the case are accused of participating in a system of fake invoices and risk as long as five years in jail.

A lawyer representing Sarkozy didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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