French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy found guilty of illegal campaign financing

French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy faces PRISON as he is found guilty of illegal campaign financing during 2012 re-election bid

Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s former president, is facing jail after being found guilty of illegal campaign financing today. 

The 66-year-old, who was in office from 2007 to 2012, was convicted of fiddling to books during the unsuccessful reelection campaign he lost to Fancois Hollande. 

Prosecutors called for Sarkozy, who was not in court to hear the verdict, to face a one-year term with six months of actual jail time. He will be sentenced later today. 

The verdict comes seven months after Sarkozy was sentenced to three years including one year of actual jail time for trying to bribe a judge.

He is currently free on bail pending an appeal in that case, and has more corruption trials coming up. 

Despite the severity of his legal situation, Sarkozy did not attend court today, leaving his legal team to represent him, just as he did throughout the process.

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 in what is known as the ‘Bygmalion’ case, after the PR company allegedly used to hide financial corruption.

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

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

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

The court heard that officials close to Sarkozy came up with the idea of setting up bogus ‘conventions’ that would appear on false invoices.

Accountants warned Sarkozy that the campaign was set to overtake the €22.5m spending limit, but that he insisted on holding more events, according to prosecutors. 

The campaign eventually spent nearly €43m – the equivalent of £37m – but Sarkozy still lost to Mr Hollande.

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.