Europe 1 with AFP // Photo credits: Alain JOCARD / AFP 19:02 p.m., November 30, 2023According to the Public Prosecutor's Office, Nicolas Sarkozy "knowingly violated the legal limit on election spending". A one-year suspended prison sentence was requested against Nicolas Sarkozy in the appeal trial over the excessive spending of his presidential campaign lost in 2012, for which he was sentenced at first instance to one year in prison.
A one-year suspended prison sentence was requested against Nicolas Sarkozy in the appeal trial over the excessive spending of his presidential campaign lost in 2012, for which he was sentenced at first instance to one year in prison. According to the Public Prosecutor's Office, Nicolas Sarkozy "knowingly violated the legal limit on election spending".
"There was nothing fatal about this spending spree," said Advocate General Bruno Revel in his closing arguments. "It is the result of the choice imposed by the candidate." But he explained that he was asking for a fully suspended sentence, as the former president (2007-2012) "is not accused of being at the origin of the system put in place" or of "having been informed of it". During the first trial, the prosecution had requested a one-year prison sentence, six months of which were suspended, and the former head of state had finally been sentenced in September 2021 to one year in prison, although the criminal court requested that this sentence be adjusted directly, at home under electronic monitoring.
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Nicolas Sarkozy's lawyer, Vincent Desry, is due to plead his case on Friday morning, opening the defence arguments. Against the other nine defendants who have been retried in this case since 8 November, the Public Prosecutor's Office has requested sentences of 18 months to four years' imprisonment, all suspended, as well as fines of 10,000 to 30,000 euros for some of them. Starting his closing arguments at the beginning of the afternoon, the attorney general recalled the "constants of this case": "Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign spending ceiling has been exceeded, this overrun has been accepted, this overrun has been concealed".
According to him, it was not decided "from the beginning" to "free ourselves from the rules" on election spending, but "at some point" these were "thrown away" and "the deliberate choice of rushing forward" was made. In this case, known as "Bygmalion", named after the company that organised the right-wing candidate's campaign rallies, 14 individuals, including Nicolas Sarkozy, were sentenced at first instance to sentences of up to three and a half years in prison, part of which was suspended.
Three of them did not appeal, so their convictions are final, and a fourth has only appealed on civil interests. Unlike his co-defendants, the former president is not accused of the system of false invoices devised to hide the explosion of his campaign expenses (nearly 43 million euros, while the legal ceiling was 22.5 million).
But in its ruling, the court had stressed that the former tenant of the Élysée Palace had "continued the organisation of meetings" for elections, "asking for one meeting per day", even though he "had been warned in writing" of the risk of legal exceedance, then of the actual exceedance.
'Fables' and 'lies'
On Friday, the day of his interrogation, Nicolas Sarkozy - as in the first trial - vigorously denied "any criminal responsibility", denouncing "fables" and "lies". With a great deal of action, he denied "ever having been aware of a fraud, having ever asked for a fraud or even having benefited from a fraud". He also disputed that his campaign had "gotten carried away". Sarkozy also accused people close to Copé - his chief of staff Jérôme Lavrilleux, who was also deputy director of the campaign team, and the Bygmalion communications agency - of enriching themselves.
During previous interrogations, the former director general of Bygmalion, Guy Alves, considered that Nicolas Sarkozy had been the "sole beneficiary" of the system of false invoices, an opinion shared by Jérôme Lavrilleux, the sole official of the UMP (now Les Républicains) who admitted to having covered up the double invoicing system set up to prevent Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign accounts from exceeding the legal authorized amount.
This case is in addition to other legal troubles for Nicolas Sarkozy: he was sentenced last May in the wiretapping case to three years in prison, one of which is suspended, a decision against which he has appealed to the Court of Cassation. The former head of state will appear in court in 2025 on suspicion of Libyan financing of his 2007 presidential campaign. He was also indicted at the beginning of October in connection with the retraction of the intermediary Ziad Takieddine.