France appeals court lightens prison sentence for former President Sarkozy News
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France appeals court lightens prison sentence for former President Sarkozy

The Paris court of appeal lightened a one-year prison sentence for former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy was facing charges over alleged illegal campaign financing in his 2012 re-election campaign. The court also on affirmed a lower court’s guilty verdict. Vincent Desry, the former president’s attorney, claimed in a press interview Wednesday that Sarkozy was innocent of all charges against him and intended to file a further appeal of the sentence.

The former president was initially sentenced to one year in prison. Despite prosecutors only calling for a one year suspended sentence, the court ruled that Sarkozy should still be required to serve six months. The other six months have been suspended.

Sarkozy has continuously denied any wrongdoing throughout the appeal process. The former president attempted to claim a mistake in invoicing by Bygmalion communications agency during his re-election campaign. However, Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), Sarkozy’s political party, was accused of telling Bygmalion to produce fake invoices to cover up the overspending in the 2012 campaign, otherwise known as the “Bymalion affair.” Bygmalian’s lawyer claim UMP pressured the company to mislabel invoices as being for party conventions when they were for Sarkozy’s campaign rallies. It is claimed that the former president spent approximetely €42.8 million (US $49.7 million), which is nearly twice twice the legal limit of €22.5 million in financing his 2012 campaign.  

Several other defendants were sentenced to two years in prison, with eighteen months suspended and five years of ineligibility. Included among those sentenced were Sarkozy’s former deputy campaign director Jérôme Lavrilleux, general manager of the UMP Eric Cesari, deputy director for the secretary general of the UMP Pierre Chassat, Sarkozy’s former campaign director Guillaume Lambert, and former treasurer of the financing association Philippe Blanchetier. Fabienne Liadzé, the former financial director of the UMP, was sentenced to two years in prison, with eighteen months suspended with no further penalty. Unlike the other defendants, Sarkozy was not implicated in the creation of false invoices.

Since leaving office, Sarkozy has been accused of corruption, bribery, influence-peddling and other campaign infringements. Sarkozy is set to stand trial in 2025 on charges of corruption and suspicions of illegal financing from Libya for his 2007 presidential campaign. The former president denies these allegations as well, despite the decade long investigation of his activities. Sarkozy was also previously found guilty of corruption and influence peddling in 2021 and originally sentenced to three years in prison.

Sarkozy is the first French president since World War II to be sentenced to prison. However, the court decided the former president should serve electronically controlled house arrest rather than prison.