Former French PM Sarkozy in court over campaign finances

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy arrives at court over his 2012 campaign finances

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Nicolas Sarkozy, head of France's Les Republicains political party and former French President, speaks on the second day of his party's national council in Paris, France on February 14, 2016.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived at a Paris court on Tuesday in connection to a long-running scandal over his 2012 campaign finances, French media reported.

It is not known whether Sarkozy will be charged during the hearing, investigation is due to the false accounting during his failed election campaign that allowed him to greatly exceed spending limits.

The case is based on the activity of a PR firm Bygmalion that organised some of Sarkozys' campaign appearances and is accused of a vast system of false accounting.

Campaign spending limits were at 22.5 million euros ($25 million) and Bygmalion is accused of charging some 18.5 million euros to Sarkozs' party, The Republicans, instead of charging the money to the campaign.

Some employees at Bygmalion, including the companys' accountant and a leading member of Sarkozys' campaign team, admitted to the existence of the fraud, but none of them accused the ex-president of knowing about it.

Sarkozy has always dismissed any knowledge of the false accounting. He was elected president in 2007, but lost to Francois Hollande in 2012.

After the election, Sarkozy said that he was retiring from politics. However, he cameback just two years later returning to lead The Republicans and attempting to position himself for another run at the presidency in 2017.

Despite Sarkozys' adamant denials, the investigation found out that Sarkozy had asked for more campaign events in mid-March 2012 nearly two months before the vote.

Sarkozys' campaign director Guillaume Lambert said to police that he warned Sarkozy at the time of the risk of exceeding financing limits.

Sarkozy said after being questioned by police in September 2015 that he did not remember the warning and described controversy as a "farce," putting the responsibility squarely on Bygmalion and The Republicans.

However, the investigation has since widened beyond Bygmalion and is looking into a further 13.5 million euros in campaign spending by The Republicans, of which only 3.0 million was stated at the time.

A total of 13 people have been charged from Bygmalion and The Republicans with fraud, abuse of confidence or illegal campaign financing.

TRTWorld and agencies