Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy found guilty of corruption and sentenced to at least one year in prison

 

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption and influence peddling on Monday and sentenced to one year in prison. Sarkozy was also given a two-year suspended sentence.

Prosecutors had demanded a four-year sentence for the 66-year old with a requirement to serve at least two years. In justifying the requested sentence, they cited the damage Sarkozy had inflicted on the French presidency.

Monday’s sentence can still be appealed and it remained unclear if Sarkozy would have to spend any time in prison even if an appeal were to fail.

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March 1, 2021

The charges against Sarkozy, who was president between 2007 and 2012, were centered around the question whether the former French leader was behind a deal with a magistrate to illegally receive information on inquiries linked to him, using false names and unofficial phone lines.

According to the prosecution, Sarkozy and his then-lawyer and longtime friend Thierry Herzog attempted to bribe the magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, by offering him a high-profile position in return for information. The incident took place after Sarkozy had left office.

Azibert and Herzog were also both found guilty on Monday and were given similar sentences.

According to the prosecution, Sarkozy was primarily seeking information on an inquiry into claims that a French business executive — Liliane Bettencourt, the late heiress of French cosmetics giant L’Oréal — had supported Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign through illegal contributions. Sarkozy was later cleared of those accusations.

Sarkozy’s lawyers also denied the accusations of corruption and influence peddling last year, arguing the fact that the magistrate did not receive the allegedly promised position proved the former president’s innocence.

Sarkozy said he “never committed the slightest act of corruption.”

But the prosecution argued there were no doubts the magistrate had conveyed details illegally. Their evidence was largely based on wiretapped conversations.

The former French president attempted to run in the 2017 presidential election, but he did not succeed, partially because of his mounting legal woes at the time.

Sarkozy also still faces questions over the financing of his 2012 presidential campaign, with a trial centered around accusations that his party falsified accounts set to begin later this month. Separately, Sarkozy has faced accusations that he received illegal payments from Libya ahead of the 2007 presidential election.

 

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