French prosecutors seek 6-month jail term for Sarkozy

Prosecutors in the trial of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday called for a six-month jail term over campaign finance violations for his 2012 relection bid.

At the end of proceedings in Paris, they issued withering criticism of the former head of state and demanded a one-year jail term, with six months of it suspended, and a fine of 3,750 euros ($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,” she added. 

“The cavalier attitude towards (other defendants) and the court is a reflection of the cavalier attitude during the campaign,” she said. 

This is the second trial of the 66-year-old right-winger who has faced a flurry of investigations into his affairs since he lost his presidential immunity after his single term in office from 2007-2012.

– ‘Corruption, influence peddling’ –

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.

Sarkozy has appealed against that conviction. The sentence is not expected to see him serve actual jail time with the remaining non-suspended year set to be served at home with an electronic bracelet

The court has heard how Sarkozy’s 2012 re-election campaign team spent around twice the authorised amount of 22.5 million euro ($27 million) in a doomed bid to hold off Socialist rival Francois Hollande.

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

“I spent 40 years in politics, it’s my life, I know how campaigns work,” he told the court, insisting: “Things did not get out of hand.” 

Prosecutor 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.”

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

Prosecutors demanded a three-year suspended jail term and a fine of 50,000 euros for 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 firm, who have admitted to accepting the fake billing system.

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