Former French president given one-year sentence for illegal campaign financing

TOPSHOT - Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy arrives at the Paris court house to hear the final verdict in a corruption trial on March 1, 2021. - A French court is to hand down its verdict in the corruption trial of Sarkozy, with prosecutors demanding prison time for the 66-year-old. Sarkozy, who led France from 2007 to 2012, is accused of offering a plum job in Monaco to a judge in exchange for inside information on an inquiry into his campaign finances. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP) (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrives at the Paris courthouse to hear the final verdict in a corruption trial, March 1, 2021. /AFP-Getty Images

A French court Thursday convicted former President Nicolas Sarkozy of illegal campaign financing over massive overspending on his 2012 re-election campaign and sentenced him to one year in prison. The verdict came six months after Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption in a separate trial.

Sarkozy, who spent nearly twice the legal limit on his failed bid for a second term in office, wasn’t present at the Paris court for the announcement of the verdict.

The 66-year-old right-winger pulled out all the stops in 2012 to try to fend off the ultimately victorious Socialist candidate, François Hollande.

A series of lavish U.S.-style election rallies caused his costs to spiral, with the final bill coming to at least 42.8 million euros (49.7 million U.S. dollars), nearly double the legal limit of 22.5 million euros.

The case is known as the Bygmalion affair, after the name of the public relations firm that set up a system of fake invoices to mask the real cost of the events.

Prosecutors sought a one-year prison sentence, half of it suspended, for the former president. He is in any case unlikely to go to jail immediately as he would be expected to appeal the sentence.