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Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy Sentenced to Second Prison, But He Will Not Stay Behind Bars

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Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to immediately end the fight against an “injustice” (File)

Paris:

A French court on Thursday sentenced former President Nicolas Sarkozy to one year in prison for illegal financing of his 2012 re-election bid, in a fresh blow to the right-wing seven months after he received a prison sentence for corruption.

Sarkozy, 66, will not remain behind bars under the terms of Thursday’s ruling, with the court ruling that he can wear an electronic bracelet and serve it at home.

He was not in court to hand the judge the maximum sentence for illegal campaign financing, after finding that Sarkozy had “voluntarily neglected to monitor the expenditure incurred”.

Sarkozy vowed to immediately end the fight against what he said was “injustice”.

“I am simply asking that the law apply to me as it applies to any other person”, he vowed to go “to the end” to seek “truth and justice”.

Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said his client would appeal the conviction.

Sarkozy spent almost double the legal limit of 22.5 million euros ($26 million) on his unsuccessful bid for a second term.

The case is one of several investigations into Sarkozy’s affairs that have largely failed to undermine his popularity among conservative voters.

In March, he became the first post-war president of France to be sentenced to prison related to his attempts to secure favor from a judge in exchange for the promise of a plum retirement job.

He has accused the judiciary, with which he crossed swords during his time as president between 2007 and 2012, of harassing him.

“I have never betrayed the trust of the French people,” he told TF1 channel in March.

– Fake Invoice –

Sarkozy dropped all stops in 2012 as he sought to block his socialist rival Fran├žois Hollande for a second term.

A series of America-style grand election rallies spiraled his cost, with the final bill coming in at least 42.8 million euros.

Public relations firm Bygmalion, hired to organize the events, established a system of fake invoices to hide the actual cost of the events.

While the investigation failed to prove that Sarkozy was aware of the fraud, the court ruled that he had “undoubtedly” benefited from it.

In his five-week trial in May and June, prosecutors portrayed him as having a “nomadic” attitude to the public money available to candidates during campaigning.

Sarkozy argued that he was too busy running the country to scrutinize the accounts closely.

His union for a popular movement party, since renaming it Republican, picked up the tab for most additions.

Thirteen others were also prosecuted in the case, including Sarkozy’s former campaign manager, several of Bygmalion’s executives and a handful of former Republican directors.

He received a prison sentence of up to three-and-a-half years in prison, with some sentences suspended.

– Corruption case –

The case failed to garner much public interest, which was considered less sensational than his earlier corruption trial.

Sarkozy was sentenced to three years in prison for corruption and influence in that case, two years of which were suspended. He has also appealed against this decision.

Even in that case he would probably escape prison, even if he loses his appeal, the judge said, adding that she would consider him serving his sentence under electronic surveillance at home.

Prior to Sarkozy, the only French leader to be convicted in a criminal trial was his predecessor Jacques Chirac, who in 2011 received a two-year suspended sentence for corruption in a fake jobs scandal related to his time as mayor of Paris.

Sarkozy has also been accused of allegations that he received millions of euros from the late Libyan dictator Moamar Kadhafi for the 2007 election campaign.

And in January, prosecutors launched an investigation into alleged influence-pedaling involving his activities as a consultant in Russia.

He sidelined his legal woes in 2016 and attempted a political comeback.

But he failed to win the Republican nomination for president, losing to his former prime minister, Fran├žois Fillon, who campaigned as a cleaner pair of hands.

Filon was tipped to win the election, but crashed in the first round of revelations that his wife had been paid nearly a million euros for a suspected fake job as a parliamentary assistant.

Fillon and his wife were later convicted of fraud.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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