Saturday, April 10, 2021

French ex-president Sarkozy convicted of corruption but likely to avoid jail

Sarkozy has long said the investigations against him are politically motivated.

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In a spectacular fall from grace, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption on Monday and sentenced to three years in prison.

A Paris court found that Sarkozy, 66, had tried to bribe a judge after leaving office, and offered inducements in exchange for confidential information about an investigation into his 2007 campaign finances, Reuters reports.

“He took advantage of his status and the relationships he had formed,” presiding judge Christine Mee said.

Sarkozy served as president from 2007 to 2012 and retains influence among conservatives. He is the second head of state in modern-day France to be convicted of corruption.

He may not spend any time in prison, however. Two years of his sentence were suspended, and Mee said she was open to him staying out of prison tagged with an electronic bracelet for the remaining year, although that decision rests with another judge.

The court found that Sarkozy had offered to secure a prestigious job in Monaco for a judge, Gilbert Azibert, in return for inside information about an inquiry into allegations that he had accepted illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.

“Such behaviour can only seriously undermine the legitimate trust that the public must have in the justice system,” Mee said.

Sarkozy left the court without speaking, but his lawyer said he would appeal, and prove his innocence.

“This ruling is extremely severe and wholly unjustified,” Jacqueline Laffont told reporters.

Sarkozy and his centre-right party Les Republicains have long said the investigations against him are politically motivated.

The only other president of the Fifth Republic to be convicted by a court was Sarkozy’s conservative predecessor, the late Jacques Chirac, who was found guilty of corruption in 2011.

Sarkozy is due in court again later this month, on charges of violating campaign financing rules during his failed 2012 re-election bid.

Prosecutors are also investigating allegations that Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi provided Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign with millions of euros shipped to Paris in suitcases.

Sarkozy denies both allegations.

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