Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy Sentenced To Three Years In Jail For Corruption
The former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been found guilty of corruption and influence peddling and sentenced to three years in jail.
A court ruled the 66-year-old had forged a “corruption pact” with his lawyer and a senior magistrate, and there was “serious evidence” the three of them collaborated to break the law.
But Sarkozy is unlikely to spend a day in prison, as two years of his sentence are suspended, and he will have the option of spending the other year at home wearing an electronic tag.
Judges heard Sarkozy, who was president between 2007 and 2012, had instructed his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, to try and bribe a magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, by offering him a prestigious job in Monaco in return for information on a separate investigation into political corruption.
The case became known in France as the “Bismuth affair”, which refers to the pseudonym “Paul Bismuth” which Sarkozy used in secretly recorded calls with Herzog on burner phones.
Herzog was found guilty of "violating professional secrecy” while Azibert was found guilty of concealing the violation, and like Sarkozy they were both sentenced to three years in prison, two of them suspended.
The verdict will put an end to his hopes of a return to frontline politics in next year’s French elections and his chances of becoming the candidate for the centre-right Les Républicains party again.
It is the first time a former French president has stood trial on corruption charges, and he is the first French president since collaborationist leader Marshall Philippe Pétain to be handed a prison term.
Sarkozy had repeatedly denied the accusations of wrongdoing and has spent years trying to have the charges thrown out, arguing recorded conversations between him and Herzog were covered by client-lawyer privilege and could not be used as evidence.
He said said he had been “dragged through the mud for six years” and had "never committed the slightest act of corruption”.
Testifying in court in December, Sarkozy said: “No pact has ever existed. Neither in my head, nor in reality. I want to be cleared of that infamy.”
Although he is expected to appeal the ruling, he also faces a separate trial starting later this month relating to his unsuccessful bid for re-election in 2012.
Known the “Bygmalion affair”, Sarkozy is accused alongside 13 co-defendants of spending nearly double the authorised limit on his campaign, which he lost to Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.
And he is still facing charges over allegations he received around £45million in funding from Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in his 2007 presidential run.