French court convicts former President Nicolas Sarkozy on corruption charges

WION Web Team
Paris, France Published: Mar 01, 2021, 06:45 PM(IST)

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrives for a hearing at his trial on corruption charges at Paris courthouse Photograph:( AFP )

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Sarkozy, who led France from 2007 to 2012 and remains influential among conservatives, was accused of offering to help a judge obtain a senior job in Monaco in exchange for inside information on an inquiry into his campaign finances

A French court on Monday convicted former President Nicolas Sarkozy on charges of corruption and influence peddling, handing him a three-year prison sentence of which two years are suspended.

Sarkozy, who led France from 2007 to 2012 and remains influential among conservatives, was accused of offering to help a judge obtain a senior job in Monaco in exchange for inside information on an inquiry into his campaign finances.

 
 
Taking into account the two years suspended, the sentence of one year jail means it is unlikely Sarkozy will physically go to prison, a punishment that in France usually applies to jail terms of above two years

During his testimony, Sarkozy said he was the victim of lies and denied ever committing an act of corruption.

"Never. Never abused my influence, alleged or real," he told the court in December. "What right do they have to drag me through the mud like this for six years? Is there no rule of law?"

Prosecutors alleged Sarkozy offered to secure a plum job in Monaco for judge Gilbert Azibert in return for confidential information about an inquiry into accusations that he had accepted illegal payments from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.

This came to light, they say, while they were wiretapping conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog after Sarkozy left office, in relation to another investigation into alleged Libyan financing of that 2007 campaign.

Azibert, at the time a magistrate at France's top appeals court for criminal cases and well-informed on the Bettencourt inquiry, did not get the job in Monaco.

Prosecutors are seeking the same punishment for Azibert and Herzog, who are on trial alongside Sarkozy.

Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac, is the only other president under France's post-war Fifth Republic to have faced trial after leaving office.

Chirac, who died in 2019, was found guilty in 2011 of presiding over a system of ghost jobs in Paris City Hall for political cronies when he was mayor of the capital. Handed a two-year suspended sentence, Chirac escaped serving time in jail.

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