Sarkozy charged over campaign financing

Sarkozy was charged with exceeding the legal limit for election expenses after being questioned by a judge in Paris.
Sarkozy was charged with exceeding the legal limit for election expenses after being questioned by a judge in Paris.

PARIS • Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been charged with illegal campaign financing in relation to his 2012 re-election bid, meaning he is now facing two possible trials in court as he contemplates an attempt to return to office.

An investigative judge on Tuesday decided to charge the former president with exceeding the legal limit for election expenses after questioning him in Paris, according to an e-mailed statement from the public prosecutor's office.

Sarkozy was also named a "material witness" concerning suspicions of forgery, fraud and breach of trust, prosecutors said. No decision has been made yet on whether the case will go to trial.

Sarkozy's lawyer Thierry Herzog said he considers the campaign overspending issue settled, given that his client already paid a penalty, adding that the situation would not hamper his client's political ambitions. "This overspending led to a payment," Mr Herzog said yesterday on Europe 1 radio. "Being charged doesn't prevent you from being a candidate in a presidential election because there is the presumption of innocence."

Sarkozy, who now leads French political party Les Republicans, is embroiled in several legal affairs that pose hurdles to his political ambitions. In this case, judges are investigating possible improper use of Sarkozy's campaign funds as well as kickbacks involving Bygmalion, a communications company hired to organise his rallies during the 2012 election fight.

Sarkozy was charged with influence-peddling in 2014. Since then, he has sought to derail the investigation by challenging its legality. France's Supreme Court will rule on March 22 on the matter.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2016, with the headline 'Sarkozy charged over campaign financing'. Print Edition | Subscribe