The Former French President (2007-2012) Nicolas Sarkozy has been sentenced to three years in jail (two of which are suspended), for corruption and influence peddling.
He is the second former French leader in history to receive a jail sentence after leaving office. Jacques Chirac was also given a suspended jail sentence in 2011 for mis-using public funds during his post as Paris Mayor. Sarkozy was convicted for using illegal methods to obtain information from a Magistrate Judge in 2014, regarding an ongoing investigation looking into his campaign finances. This is not the first time Sarkozy has been accused of such a thing. In 2013, Sarkozy was alleged to have accepted cash from Liliane Bettencourt, the 90-year-old heiress and principal shareholder of L’Oréal, in order to fund his political return on route to the presidency. However, the French Court did in fact drop all charges against him. The public prosecutor in Bordeaux, had cautioned that the case against Sarkozy would struggle.
Prosecutors assured it had been established “with certainty” that the Judge in 2013 had leaked confidential information regarding the Bettencourt case. Fast-forward to 2021, Sarkozy’s lawyer, Jacqueline Laffont, called the court verdict “extremely severe”. Narkozy was said to be “calm but determined to continue to prove his innocence”. She also observed that “there are dozens of clients found guilty in the first instance who are found not guilty on appeal, and Nicolas Sarkozy will be among them”.
But Sarkozy could in reality avoid spending even one day in prison. Usually in France, the punishment of prison is reserved for offences sentenced to more than three years. The court said that he could request to be detained within his own home, wearing an electronic bracelet. Sarkozy will undoubtedly appeal to the verdict. The trial began at the end of last year, and after a thorough and extensive investigation, revealed the verdict in a full courtroom on Monday afternoon. Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni, singer and model showcased her undivided support for her husband on a post on Instagram reading, “what a fierce and senseless love…the fight continues, the truth will come out #injustice”. During the trial, Sarkozy defined his political actions were all about “giving a little help” to the people around him. During the trial back in December 2020, when called to the witness stand, Sarkozy stated in his opening remarks, “I have never committed the slightest act of corruption”.
It will be interesting for the world to keep an eye on this case, as Sarkozy begins to appeal the judgement and takes the case further. It will also have an effect on the French political landscape for the foreseeable future, with Sarkozy also due in court March 2022, regarding accusations of ignoring campaign finance rules when launching his failed 2012 re-election bid.