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French ex-president handed jail term for corruption

2021-03-02 01:20:27 GMT2021-03-02 09:20:27(Beijing Time) Sina English

AFP

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrives at the Paris court house to hear the final verdict in a corruption trial on March 1. 

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption on Monday and handed a three-year prison sentence in a ruling that deals a major blow to any lingering political ambitions.

The jail sentence includes two years suspended and them remaining year can be served at home with an electronic bracelet, the court ruled, meaning Sarkozy will not end up behind bars over this case.

The judge found the 66-year-old had formed a "corruption pact" with his former lawyer and friend Thierry Herzog in order to convince a judge, Gilbert Azibert, to obtain and share information about a legal investigation.

"The facts for which Nicolas Sarkozy is guilty are particularly serious having been committed by a former president who was the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary," the judgement read.

Sarkozy, a one-term president from 2007 to 2012, announced an appeal several hours after the verdict, with his lawyer calling the findings "extremely severe" and "totally unfounded and unjustified."

The conviction sets a new low-point in the tumultuous political career of the right-winger who remains a dominant political figure in France, admired by fans for his tough talk on crime and immigration.

It is also likely to undermine any attempted comeback to front-line politics — an ambition he has denied, but which has been promoted by many supporters ahead of the 2022 presidential election.

Wearing a dark suit and tie, Sarkozy showed no emotion as the sentence was read out and he left court without commenting to waiting journalists.

"What a senseless witchhunt, my love Nicolas Sarkozy," his wife, former supermodel and singer Carla Bruni, posted on Instagram, next to a picture of the couple embracing. "The fight goes on, the truth will come out. #injustice."

Only one other modern French president, Sarkozy's political mentor Jacques Chirac, has been convicted of corruption.

Chirac, who did not attend proceedings in 2011 due to ill health, received a two-year suspended sentence over the creation of ghost jobs at the Paris city hall to fund his party when he was mayor.

Wiretaps

The verdict on Monday was based on extensive wiretaps of private conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer in 2014 during which they discussed helping a judge, Gilbert Azibert, obtain a desirable job in Monaco.

In return the judge delivered information about a judicial investigation into Sarkozy's dealings with billionaire L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt amid allegations that she had handed over envelopes stuffed with cash for campaign financing.

Sarkozy was eventually cleared over his dealings with Bettencourt and has maintained his innocence throughout.

He told the court during his latest trial he had "never committed the slightest act of corruption."

While reading out her sentence, judge Christine Mee said Sarkozy had "used his status as a former president ... in order to favor a magistrate to serve his personal interests."

On March 17, the ex-president is scheduled to face a second trial over accusations of fraudulently overspending in his failed 2012 reelection bid.

He has also been charged over allegations he received millions of euros from Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi for his 2007 election campaign.

And in January, prosecutors opened another probe into alleged influence-peddling by Sarkozy over his advisery activities in Russia.

(Agencies)

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