France's ex-President Sarkozy found guilty of illegal campaign financing

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. (AFP/Getty Images)

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A court in Paris has found former French President Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of illegal campaign financing of his unsuccessful 2012 reelection bid.

Sarkozy wasn’t present at the court for the verdict’s announcement.

He was accused of having spent almost twice the maximum legal amount of 22.5 million euros ($27.5 million) on the reelection bid that he lost to Socialist Francois Hollande.

Sarkozy, France’s president from 2007 to 2012, has vigorously denied wrongdoing. He has the possibility to appeal the decision.

The verdict comes seven months after he was convicted in a corruption and influence peddling case.

He was given one year in prison and two years suspended in that case but is free pending appeal.

He is also to be sentenced to prison in the latest case, unless he appeals.

The prosecutor’s office has demanded that Sarkozy be sentenced to six months in prison. In addition, the prosecution asked for another six months’ suspended prison sentence and a €3,750 fine.

In the campaign financing case, prosecutors concluded that Sarkozy knew weeks before the 2012 election that his expenses — which are strictly limited under French law — were getting close to the legal maximum.

They accused him of having ignored two notes from his accountants warning about the money issue.

Prosecutors argued Sarkozy is “the only person responsible for his campaign financing” and that he chose to exceed the limit by organizing many rallies, including giant ones.

During his hearing, Sarkozy told the court the extra money did not go into his campaign, but instead helped make other people richer. He denied any “fraudulent intent.”

He also insisted he did not handle day-to-day organization because he had a team to do that and therefore could not be blamed for the amount of spending.

In addition to the former president, 13 other people went on trial, including members of his conservative Republicans party, accountants and heads of the communication group in charge of organizing the rallies, Bygmalion.