Sarkozy Charged Over Presidential Campaign Financing Scandal

  • Ex-French president Nicolas Sarkozy quizzed on 2012 campaign
  • No decision yet on whether the case should go to trial

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was charged Tuesday with illegal campaign financing in relation to his 2012 re-election bid, meaning he is now facing two possible trials in court as he contemplates an attempt to return to office.

An investigative judge decided to charge the former French president for exceeding the legal limit for election expenses after questioning him in Paris, according to an e-mailed statement from the public prosecutor’s office. Sarkozy was also named a “material witness” concerning suspicions of forgery, fraud, and breach of trust, prosecutors said. No decision has yet been made on whether the case will go to trial.

Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said he considers the campaign overspending issue settled, given that his client already paid a penalty, adding that the situation won’t hamper his client’s political ambitions.

“This overspending lead to a payment,” Herzog said Wednesday on Europe 1 radio. “Being charged doesn’t prevent you from being a candidate in a presidential election because there is the presumption of innocence,” he said.

Sarkozy, who now leads the French political party Les Republicans, is embroiled in several legal affairs that amount to hurdles to his political ambitions. In this case, judges are investigating possible improper use of Sarkozy’s campaign funds as well as kick-backs involving Bygmalion, a communications company hired to organize his rallies during the 2012 election fight.

The former French president was also charged with influence peddling in 2014. Since then, Sarkozy has sought to derail the investigation by challenging its legality. France’s Supreme Court will rule March 22 on the matter.

In France, an investigative judge is a magistrate in charge of investigating serious or complex criminal cases. At the end of probes, they can either order the case to go to trial or drop it.

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