Former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy faces ruling on campaign finance trial

Vastavam web: Former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy faces a hearing today on whether he must stand trial on charges of illicit financing of his failed 2012 presidential campaign, one of several legal inquiries which have dogged the rightwing politician since he left office.If an appeals court upholds a judge’s decision last year ordering the trial, Sarkozy could face a potentially embarrassing public ordeal as well as up to a year in prison if convicted.Sarkozy has angrily denounced the charges, saying he was unaware of the fraud by executives at Bygmalion, who are also facing trial alongside accountants and former UMP officials.

His defence team is also arguing on procedural grounds, saying Sarkozy has already been sanctioned for campaign overspending by France’s Constitutional Council in 2013.If judges decide this argument is valid, the matter could be sent to the Cour de Cassation, France’s court of final appeal, which would delay any decision on whether a trial will be held.

Bygmalion executives as well as Jerome Lavrilleux, the deputy manager of Sarkozy’s 2012 campaign, have acknowledged the existence of fraud and false accounting.”More than anyone else, he was supposed to know, respect and enforce… the legal requirements in this matter,” judge Serge Tournaire wrote when ordering Sarkozy to stand trial in February 2017.The appeal court’s general counsel has taken a similar stance, writing in a requisition seen by AFP that Sarkozy “had knowingly given instructions leading to higher spending,” a claim Sarkozy has denied.

Sarkozy, 63, was president from 2007 until his defeat by Socialist rival Francois Hollande in 2012.That inquiry gave him the dubious distinction in 2014 of being the first former French president to be taken into police custody.He has also been charged over accusations by former members of Moamer Kadhafi’s regime that he accepted millions of the slain Libyan dictator’s cash for his first presidential campaign in 2007 — claims Sarkozy has vehemently denied.He attempted a comeback last year, taking the helm of the Republicans party and hoping to be its presidential candidate, only to lose out to his former prime minister Francois Fillon.