Former French president convicted of graft

Published March 2, 2021
PARIS: Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy leaves the courthouse after hearing the verdict in the corruption trial on Monday. —AFP
PARIS: Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy leaves the courthouse after hearing the verdict in the corruption trial on Monday. —AFP

PARIS: 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 sentence includes two years suspended and the remaining one year would be converted into a non-custodial sentence, meaning it is unlikely Sarkozy will end up behind bars over this case.

He is almost certain to appeal and remains free, with no arrest warrant issued, but he faces several other corruption investigations over campaign financing and alleged influence peddling.

The sentence for seeking to illegally influence a judge is the latest twist in the tumultuous political career of the 66-year-old who remains a favourite for many on the right for his combative style and tough talk on crime and immigration.

The conviction is likely to undermine any attempted comeback to frontline politics, an ambition he has denied, but which has been promoted by many supporters ahead of 2022 presidential elections.

Wearing a dark suit and tie, Sarkozy showed no emotion as the sentence was read out and left court without commenting to waiting journalists before heading to his private office in central Paris.

“What a senseless witch-hunt, 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.

The verdict on Monday related to a case of influence peddling and corruption, one of at least four separate investigations into Sarkozy’s affairs.

It centred on allegations that the former head of state offered to help a judge obtain a desirable job in Monaco in 2014 in exchange for information about an inquiry into his campaign finances. The former president told the court during the trial he had “never committed the slightest act of corruption”.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2021

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