Nicolas Sarkozy has been sentenced to three years in prison, including two suspended, after a Paris court found the former French president guilty of corruption and influence peddling.
Sarkozy, who maintained his innocence and will appeal, is the first French ex-coprince, but the second French leader under the Fifth Republic to be convicted after leaving office. The late Jacques Chirac was handed a suspended jail sentence in 2011 for misusing public funds by hiring fictitious employees during his earlier stint as Paris mayor.
The court on Monday found that Sarkozy had entered a corruption pact with his lawyer Thierry Herzog and former judge Gilbert Azibert. Herzog and Azibert each received the same sentence as Sarkozy.
The 66-year-old retired politician, who is still popular with centre-right voters, communicated with Herzog using a secret telephone line in the name of the fictional “Paul Bismuth”, but the line was in turn tapped by the police as part of a separate investigation.
Prosecutors said Sarkozy in 2014 promised to help Azibert get a job in Monaco in exchange for information related to another case, now dropped, in which Sarkozy had been accused of accepting illegal funds from Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oréal heiress, for his successful 2007 presidential election campaign.
Azibert never got the Monaco job but the court decided that the offer in exchange for confidential information was sufficient evidence of corruption.
Sarkozy, as guarantor of the independence of the justice system, “used his status as a former president to favour a judge who had served his personal interest”, judge Christine Mée said.
In addition to the corruption case for which he was convicted on Monday, Sarkozy is embroiled in other protracted legal battles and judicial investigations.