International

French ex-president Sarkozy to face campaign finance trial

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A French court on Tuesday ordered Nicolas Sarkozy to stand trial for illicit campaign financing, adding to the ex-president’s legal woes as he also prepares to answer charges of exerting pressure on a judge.

Sarkozy, 64, lost his final appeal to France’s highest criminal court, and risks a year in prison and a fine of 3,750 euros ($4,085) if found guilty.

The ruling came the same day as another court ordered a trial for ex-prime minister Edouard Balladur on charges of campaign finance violations in an unrelated case.

Sarkozy is not the country’s first former president to be prosecuted — Jacques Chirac, who died last week, was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for embezzlement and misuse of public funds during his time as mayor of Paris.

Prosecutors say Sarkozy spent nearly 43 million euros ($40 million) on his failed 2012 re-election bid — almost double the legal limit of 22.5 million euros — using fake invoices.

He has said he was unaware of the fraud by executives at the public relations firm Bygmalion, who are among 13 others being pursued in the case.

Sarkozy’s lawyer Emmanuel Piwnica called the appeals court ruling a “disappointment”.

Since losing the election to the Socialist Party’s Francois Hollande and leaving office, Sarkozy has fought a barrage of corruption and campaign financing charges, all of which he rejects.

The former Republican party leader faces another trial on charges of corruption and influence peddling over his alleged attempts to try to get information from a judge about an investigation focused on him.

And he has been charged over accusations he accepted millions of euros from the late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi towards his first presidential campaign in 2007.

Sarkozy will face a standard criminal court, while Balladur, 90, will be tried by the Court of Justice of the Republic, a tribunal set up to hear cases of ministerial misconduct.

The court has no jurisdiction over heads of state, except in treason cases.

Balladur and former defence minister Francois Leotard, 77, were charged in 2017 with “complicity in misuse of corporate assets” over the sale of submarines to Pakistan and frigates to Saudi Arabia when Balladur was prime minister, from 1993 to 1995.

The kickbacks are estimated at some 13 million francs (almost two million euros in today’s money), which are suspected of including a cash donation to Balladur’s 1995 presidential campaign of a little over 10 million francs, prosecutor Francois Molins said in a statement.

AFP

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