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Former French president Sarkozy jailed three years for corruption, overspending on presidential campaign

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Former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy has been sentenced to three years in jail for corruption according to a BBC news report.

He was convicted of trying to bribe a magistrate in 2014 after he left office by suggesting he could secure a prestigious job for him in return for information about a separate case.

Sarkozy, 66, is the first former French president to get a custodial sentence. Sarkozy was on trial with two co-defendants, his lawyer Thierry Herzog and senior magistrate Gilbert Azibert.

The case centered on phone conversations between Sarkozy and Herzog that were taped by police in 2014.

Meanwhile, his lawyer says he is appealing the sentence. In the ruling, Judge Christine Mée said Sarkozy could serve a year at home with an electronic tag, rather than go to prison.

The conservative politician “knew what [he] was doing was wrong”, the judge said, adding that his actions and those of his lawyer had given the public “a very bad image of justice”.

The crimes were specified as influence-peddling and violation of professional secrecy.

The only precedent was the trial of Sarkozy’s predecessor Jacques Chirac, who got a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for having arranged bogus jobs at Paris City Hall for allies when he was Paris mayor. Chirac died in 2019.

Investigators were looking into claims that Sarkozy had accepted illicit payments from the L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.

The prosecution convinced the court that Sarkozy and Herzog had sought to bribe Azibert with a prestigious job in Monaco in return for information about that investigation.

Nicolas Sarkozy served one five-year term as president from 2007. In 2012 he lost his re-election bid to Socialist François Hollande.

He adopted tough anti-immigration policies and sought to reform France’s economy during a presidency overshadowed by the global financial crisis. Since then he has been targeted by several criminal investigations.

In 2017 he tried to make a political comeback but failed as his center-right Les Républicains party chose another presidential candidate instead.

What is the corruption case about?

French media reported that Sarkozy was heard telling Herzog: “I’ll get him promoted, I’ll help him.” The phone line police tapped was a secret number set up in a fictional name, Paul Bismuth, through which Sarkozy communicated with his lawyer.

On Monday Herzog and Azibert were also sentenced to three years in jail, two of them suspended.

Sarkozy is due to go on trial next month over the so-called Bygmalion affair, in which he is accused of having overspent in his unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign.

Prosecutors are also investigating claims that he received funding for his 2007 campaign from Libya’s then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Sarkozy has already been cleared in connection with the Bettencourt case. He had said all investigations against him were politically motivated. Despite his legal woes, he has remained popular in right-wing circles, a year away from another presidential election.

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