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France’s former conservative president, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost his appeal of a conviction for corruption and influence peddling Wednesday, meaning that — pending a final appeal — he will soon be sporting an ankle monitor.
In its judgment, the Paris Court of Appeals upheld his three-year prison sentence, handed down in 2021, and two of those years will be suspended. For the remaining year, he can wear an electronic ankle bracelet while under house arrest to avoid incarceration. Sarkozy was also banned from public office and voting for three years.
Sarkozy’s lawyers protested the decision and said they would appeal it to France’s highest court. The ruling adds to the web of legal woes that the former president has found himself entangled in since leaving office in 2012.
French president found guilty of corruption, sentenced to prison
In a separate case, French prosecutors announced last week they wanted to bring charges against him over accusations that he accepted illegal payments from the Libyan dictatorship during his 2007 election bid. Sarkozy denies any wrongdoing in that case.
Wednesday’s appeals court decision reaffirmed Sarkozy’s 2021 conviction for trying to bribe a judge. According to prosecutors, Sarkozy and his team planned to influence a magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, by offering him a plum role in return for information about another inquiry linked to the president, who by then had left office. Sarkozy’s defense team argued unsuccessfully that because the magistrate did not receive the position, the president was innocent.
The affair became known as the “wiretapping case” in French media because the prosecution relied heavily on eence gathered from telephone conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer that were intercepted by investigators. In its ruling at the time, the court found that Sarkozy “used his status as former French president,” rendering his offenses more egregious.
Sarkozy listened to Wednesday’s ruling with his jaw clenched and refused to speak to journalists as he left, according to French newspaper Le Figaro. “Nicolas Sarkozy is innocent of the charges,” lawyer Jacqueline Laffont said, announcing plans to appeal the decision to the Court of Cassation, France’s highest court. “We will take this all the way. This is just the beginning,” she said.
Sarkozy, guilty of illegal campaign financing, probably will avoid prison
The decision is the latest in a snarl of convictions and accusations against the former leader, who served as president from 2007 to 2012. He denies wrongdoing in all of the cases.
Last week, French media reported that financial prosecutors are seeking to try Sarkozy on charges that his 2007 election campaign received illegal payments from Moammar Gaddafi’s dictatorial regime in Libya. If a judge agrees to the prosecutors’ request, as is usual in France, the charges could be even more serious than those in the wiretapping case.
The investigation began in 2013, when investigators first looked into claims that Gaddafi’s government secretly gave Sarkozy’s campaign $54 million. The sum would have far exceeded the limit on foreign campaign funding allowed by French law at the time, the Associated Press reported.
In a separate conviction in 2021, Sarkozy was found guilty of illegal campaign financing in the course of his failed 2012 reelection bid. Prosecutors argued that Sarkozy was involved in a scheme to falsify financial records, circumventing French election rules that limit the amount candidates can spend on campaigns.
Sarkozy is not France’s first former head of state to be found guilty of breaching the law. In 2011, former president Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy’s onetime political mentor, was convicted of embezzling government funds, abusing public trust and creating false jobs while he was mayor of Paris. The case made Chirac France’s first former head of state to face prosecution since just after World War II.