Sarkozy in hearing to determine go-ahead for fraud charges

On Wednesday, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy will attend a hearing to determine whether he will stand trial on charges of unlawfully funding his presidential campaign in 2012.

READ MORE: Sarkozy ‘arrested over campaign financing’

According to the BBC, Sarkozy was taken into police custody and placed under investigation on March 20 after allegations including “illicit campaign financing, misappropriation of Libyan public funds and passive corruption” emerged.

Sarkozy allegedly spent €43-million on his election campaign. In France, politicians running for presidency are only permitted to spend €22.5-million on their campaigns. 

In 2013, after documents implicating Sarkozy were released on investigative website Mediapart, his party — the Union for a Popular Movement (UPM) — became the focus of a probe into allegations it received millions of euros from Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2007. According to the Guardian, the funds were allegedly to finance the French leader’s campaign.

Sarkozy claimed the documents were false, but a French court ruled the documents were bonafide and used them to investigate further.

According to The Guardian, the investigation gained further traction after French-Lebanese businessman — who was closely linked to Gaddafi — told Mediapart that he delivered the money to Sarkozy.

This is not the first time Sarkozy has found himself at the centre of fraud allegations. Before this investigation, the French leader was already expected to stand trial after allegation surfaced claiming the UPM was assisted by a public relations firm to help hide the cost of the leader’s campaign. The incident would later become known as the “Bygmalion Affair”.

AFP reports Sarkozy is also facing corruption charges and accusations of “influence peddling” for helping a judge get a cushy retirement job in exchange for information about one of his cases.

According to AFP, the defence will argue that Sarkozy was already sanctioned by the French Constitutional Council in 2013 for “campaign overspending” to the tune of €364 000. Since the emergence of that revelation, it was found Sarkozy actually overspent by €20.5-million.

Although Jerome Lavrilleux, the deputy manager of Sarkozy’s 2012 campaign, and a Bygmalion executive have acknowledged the fraud charges, investigators do not have proof of who administered the illicit financing.

If the court finds that the defence’s argument is just, a prospect of a trial may be postponed.

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