Sarkozy ordered to stand trial over 2012 campaign financing

The prosecution said Mr Sarkozy had used false billing from a public relations firm during his failed re-election bid in 2012.
The prosecution said Mr Sarkozy had used false billing from a public relations firm during his failed re-election bid in 2012.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy will stand trial over allegations of illegally financing his failed 2012 re-election bid, a judicial source said yesterday.

The source added that 13 others would also face trial over the so-called "Bygmalion affair", which involved charges of spending overruns and funding irregularities.

The decision to put Mr Sarkozy on trial comes as French politicians face growing scrutiny over their personal finances in the build-up to this year's presidential election in April and May.

The prosecution said Mr Sarkozy greatly exceeded a spending limit of €22.5 million (S$34 million) by using false billing from a public relations firm called Bygmalion.

The source said one of two judges in charge of the case, Mr Serge Tournaire, had decided on Feb 3 that the case should go to trial after the failure of Mr Sarkozy's legal efforts to prevent it in December.

Bygmalion allegedly charged €18.5 million to Mr Sarkozy's right-wing party - which at the time was called the UMP, but has since been renamed The Republicans - instead of billing the president's campaign.

Executives from the company have acknowledged the existence of fraud and false accounting, and the trial will focus on whether Mr Sarkozy himself was aware or taking decisions about it.

Only one other president - Mr Jacques Chirac - has been tried in France's fifth republic, which was founded in 1958. He was given a two-year suspended jail term in 2011 over a fake job scandal.

Questioned by police in September 2015, Mr Sarkozy said he did not recall ever being warned about the accounting and described the controversy as a "farce", putting the responsibility squarely on Bygmalion and the UMP.

The son of a Hungarian immigrant father, Mr Sarkozy was nicknamed the "bling-bling" president for his flashy displays of wealth.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Sarkozy ordered to stand trial over 2012 campaign financing'. Print Edition | Subscribe