French court rejects Sarkozy's appeal over campaign financing scandal
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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has lost an appeal against an earlier decision to send him to trial over charges of illegal campaign financing, in a case known as the "Bygmalion" affair.
A Paris court said on Thursday that it had rejected Sarkozy’s appeal.
The Bygmalion affair centres on claims that Sarkozy’s party, then known as the UMP, connived with a friendly PR company to hide the true cost of his 2012 presidential election campaign.
France sets limits on campaign spending, and it is alleged the firm Bygmalion invoiced Sarkozy’s party rather than the campaign, allowing the UMP to spend almost double the amount permitted.
France’s UMP (now called Les Républicains) party told the communications agency to produce fake invoices to cover up vast over-spending during Sarkozy’s failed 2012 presidential election campaign.
Patrick Maisonneuve, a lawyer for the Bygmalion communications agency, stated that the UMP pressured the company to mis-label invoices as being for party conventions when they were actually for Sarkozy campaign rallies.
This meant charges went to the UMP rather than the Sarkozy campaign. He estimated the total value of these “fake invoices” at “more than 10 million euros”.
Maisonneuve alleged that UMP officials had made clear to Bygmalion staff at the time that if they did not comply they would not get paid. He accused the party of “financial blackmail”.
Speaking after Maisonneuve’s comments, UMP official and the former deputy director of Sarkozy’s 2012 campaign, Jérôme Lavrilleux, admitted there had been “anomalies” in Sarkozy’s campaign funding and that “there were some invoices charged to the UMP which corresponded to campaign expenses”.
Sarkozy has already been judged to have exceeded spending limits for his 2012 election campaign in a ruling by France’s Constitutional Council last year.
It said Sarkozy had filed expenses of nearly 23 million euros, 2.1 per cent more than is allowed under French law.
Sarkozy denies charges of wrongdoing.
His lawyers said Thursday that he would appeal the decision before the Cour de Cassation, France's final court of appeal.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)