Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy denies playing a role in an illegal funding affair during his campaign to get re-elected as president in 2012. A source says one of two magistrates presiding over the case has signed a trial order.

Nicolas Sarkozy failed to win the candidacy of the Republican party to run for president in 2017.
Nicolas Sarkozy failed to win the candidacy of the Republican party to run for president in 2017.

A magistrate has ordered former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to stand trial over irregularities in the funding of his failed 2012 re-election bid, a judicial source said on Tuesday.

The decision to put Sarkozy on trial comes as French politicians face growing scrutiny over their personal finances in the run-up to this year's presidential election in April and May.

According to the source, one of two magistrates handling the case ordered the trial on the charge that Sarkozy spent way more than he was entitled to in the so-called 'Bygmalion affair,' despite warnings from his accountants.

​Campaign spending limits were set at 22.5 million euros ($25 million). Public relations company Bygmalion, which organised some of Sarkozy's campaign appearances, is accused of charging some 18.5 million euros to Sarkozy's party, the Republicans, instead of charging the money to Sarkozy's campaign.

Some employees at Bygmalion, including the company's accountant and a leading member of Sarkozy's campaign team, admitted to the cover-up.

However, none of them said that the ex-president knew anything about the illegal activity.

The charge against Sarkozy exposes the 62-year old conservative politician to a one-year prison sentence if convicted.

The source said 13 others would also face trial over the affair.

The source also said it was still possible that an appeal could be lodged against the trial order because it was signed by only one of the two magistrates in charge of the case.

Sarkozy ended his five-year term in 2012 deeply unpopular. He has always dismissed claims of knowing about the false accounting.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies