France’s Sarkozy denies wrongdoing in illegal campaign financing case

By Juliette Jabkhiro

PARIS (Reuters) – Former President Nicolas Sarkozy told a Paris appeals court on Friday he was innocent of any wrongdoing, as he tried to overturn a 2021 conviction for illegal campaign financing.

Sarkozy was handed a one-year prison sentence in September 2021, though that was suspended while he launched his appeal.

“I forcefully contest any criminal liability,” said Sarkozy, who remains an influential figure among French conservatives, despite a string of trials and investigations.

“I deny having ever been aware of any fraud,” he told the judges. “What matters to me is the truth. I have failed to convince so far. I want the truth.”

The former president, in office from 2007 to 2012, has always denied the accusations that his conservative party Les Republicains, then known as the UMP, worked with public relations firm Bygmalion to hide the true cost of his re-election bid.

Sarkozy put the blame on some members of his campaign team: “I didn’t choose any supplier, I didn’t sign any quotation, any invoice,” he told the judges on Friday, speaking loudly with agitated hand gestures.

France sets strict limits on campaign spending. Prosecutors allege that the firm invoiced UMP rather than the campaign. They say Sarkozy spent 42.8 million euros on his 2012 campaign, almost double the permitted amount.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)