French prosecutors seek six-month jail term for former president Sarkozy

Prosecutors demand one-year prison sentence, with six months suspended, and fine of €3,750

FILE PHOTO: Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrives for a hearing in a trial over alleged illegal financing of his failed re-election campaign in 2012, with 13 other defendants, former officials of Bygmalion and representatives of the UMP, at the courthouse in Paris, France, June 15, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

Prosecutors in the trial of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday called for him to serve six months in jail over campaign finance breaches in his 2012 re-election bid.

At the end of proceedings in Paris, they issued condemnation of the former head of state and demanded a one-year jail term, with six months suspended, and a fine of €3,750 ($4,500).

"Nicolas Sarkozy clearly regrets nothing because he came to just one hearing," prosecutor Vanessa Perree told the court.

"This way of thinking of himself as being above the law, of not being a citizen among others, is the same as it was during the presidential campaign.

"The cavalier attitude towards [other defendants] and the court is a reflection of the cavalier attitude during the campaign."

This is the second trial of Mr Sarkozy, 66, the right-winger who has faced investigations into his affairs since he lost his presidential immunity after his single term in office, between 2007 and 2012.

In March, he became France's first post-war president to be given a custodial sentence when judges handed him a three-year term, two years of which were suspended, for corruption and influence-peddling over attempts to secure favours from a judge.

Mr Sarkozy has appealed against that conviction, but even if that fails he is not expected to serve jail time.

The remaining year will probably be served at home with an electronic bracelet.

The court has heard how Mr Sarkozy's 2012 re-election campaign team spent about twice the authorised amount of €22.5 million in a failed bid to hold off Socialist rival Francois Hollande.

Appearing on Tuesday, Mr Sarkozy said that he had been too busy running the country to pay attention to "an accounting detail" and denied accusations that he was responsible for the spending.

"I spent 40 years in politics, it's my life," he told the court. "I know how campaigns work. Things did not get out of hand."

Ms Perree said it was a "farce to try to make us believe that these people do not watch over things. It's a farce to see them try to hide behind their incompetence".

Mr Sarkozy and 13 others are accused of setting up or benefiting from a fake billing scheme to hide the excess spending, which paid for lavish, US-style election rallies.

Prosecutors demanded a three-year suspended jail term and a fine of €50,000 for Mr Sarkozy's deputy campaign manager, Jerome Lavrilleux, who has admitted to fraud.

They sought suspended terms of 18 months for three executives from Bymalion, a public relations company, who have admitted to accepting the fake billing system.