[JURIST] Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy [BBC profile] was ordered Tuesday to face trial over alleged illegal campaign financing during his 2012 run for re-election. France places a limit of €22.5 million for campaign spending. Investigators suspect [L’Express report, in French] Sarkozy exceeded that amount by €23 million on big-production, theatrical rallies. The event company, Bygmalion, helped conceal the overspending by false invoices and charges to Sarkozy’s political party rather than to his presidential campaign. The company’s involvement has led to the case being called the “Bygmalion affair.” Sarkozy stated that he plans to appeal [L’Express report, in French] the decision to send him to court, because only one investigating judge signed the order while the other abstained.
Sarkozy has been the subject of continuing legal trouble over the course of his public life. In 2014 Sarkozy was taken into police custody for questioning regarding allegations of misuse of influence and illegal campaign financing. Specifically, anti-corruption investigators [JURIST report] were looking into whether Sarkozy used his political influence [BBC report] to encourage a judge to share information with him about judicial proceedings into his 2007 presidential campaign funding. It is alleged Sarkozy offered the judge a prestigious position in Monaco in exchange for the information. Investigators also suspect Sarkozy was informed that his phone was being bugged during the campaign-funding investigation. Sarkozy’s post-presidential legal troubles started shortly after he lost the 2012 election. In June 2012, one month out of office and having lost his presidential immunity from investigative or legal procedures, Sarkozy was accused [JURIST report] of illegally using proceeds from submarine sales to Pakistan toward his campaign funding in 1995. In September 2013 a French appeals court allowed [JURIST report] an investigation to proceed into allegations that Sarkozy exploited L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, medically diagnosed with dementia, into donating to his political campaign. The charges were dropped the following month [JURIST report].