Nicolas Sarkozy has been handed a one-year prison term after being found guilty of illegal campaign financing of his unsuccessful bid for re-election as French president in 2012.
France’s former leader was not present at the Paris court for the verdict and sentencing that see him confined to his home under electronic surveillance.
He was accused of having spent almost twice the maximum legal amount of €22.5 million on the re-election bid that he lost to socialist Francois Hollande.
The money was used by his conservative party to stage extravagant US-style campaign rallies.
Afterwards, the party hired a public relations agency to orchestrate a campaign to hide the cost.
The court stated Sarkozy “knew” the legal limit was at stake and “voluntarily” failed to supervise additional expenses.
Campaign expenses are strictly limited under French law.
Prosecutors accused him of having ignored two notes from his accountants about the money issue and said he knew weeks before the election that his expenses were getting dangerously close to the legal maximum.
They argued Sarkozy was “the only person responsible for his campaign financing” and he chose to exceed the limit by organising several rallies, some of them very large.
In June, Sarkozy, 66, told the court he had not been privy to the logistics of his presidential campaign in the lead up to the April 2012 vote and insisted he did not know how money was spent.
Sarkozy, who served as France's president from 2007 to 2012, can appeal against the decision the court made on Thursday where prosecutors had sought a one-year prison sentence, half of it suspended.
However, the right-winger is in any case unlikely to go behind bars immediately and would be expected to appeal a sentence.
Thirteen others, in addition to the former president, went on trial as part of the case, which has become known as the Bygmalion affair after the name of the PR firm hired by Sarkozy's party.
They include members of his conservative Republicans party, accountants and heads of Bygmalion.
They face charges including forgery, breach of trust, fraud and complicity in illegal campaign financing.
Some have admitted wrongdoing and offered details about a system of false invoices that was used to try to cover up the overspending.
In March Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption and influence-peddling in another case.
He was sentenced to one year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence in that case but is free pending appeal.
Sarkozy retired from active politics in 2017, but is still playing a role behind the scenes.
Sarkozy has been married three times and has four children, one with his current wife Carla Bruni, a former model and singer-songwriter.
Nicolas Sarkozy sentenced to one year in prison for illegal financing of the electoral campaign.
Guillaume Lambert, former campaign manager of Nicolas Sarkozy, sentenced to three and a half years in prison, two of which were suspended for "complicity in the illegal financing of the electoral campaign".
Jérôme Lavrilleux, deputy director of Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign in 2012, sentenced to three years in prison, one of which was suspended for breach of trust and complicity in the illegal financing of the electoral campaign.
Bastien Millot, co-founder and boss of Bygmalion, sentenced to three years in prison, including 18 months suspended for “complicity in the use of forgery”, “complicity in fraud” and “complicity in illegal financing of the electoral campaign”.
Guy Alves, co-founder of Bygmalion, sentenced to two years in prison, one of which is suspended for complicity in forgery, use of forgery, fraud and illegal financing of the electoral campaign.
Franck Attal, former head of Bygmalion, sentenced to two years in prison, including one year suspended for complicity in forgery, use of forgery, fraud and illegal financing of the electoral campaign.
Eric Cesari, director general of the UMP at the time of the campaign, sentenced to three years in prison, one of which was suspended.
Fabienne Liadzé, director of resources at the party, sentenced to three years in prison, including 18 months suspended
Pierre Chassat, director of communications for the UMP, sentenced to three years in prison, including two years suspended.
Philippe Briand, who was president of the association for financing the campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy, sentenced to two years in prison, one of which is suspended. He is also deprived of eligibility for three years. He is found guilty of the acts of fraud.