A former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been sentenced to three years in jail – two of them suspended – for corruption.
Sarkozy, 66, was found guilty of trying to bribe a magistrate by offering a prestigious job in Monaco in return for information about a criminal inquiry into his political party.
The magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, and Sarkozy’s former lawyer, Thierry Herzog, got the same sentence.
Sarkozy can serve the term at home.
In the ruling, the judge in Paris said Sarkozy could serve a year at home with an electronic tag, rather than go to prison. The ex-president is expected to appeal.
Sarkozy “knew what [he] was doing was wrong”, the judge said, adding that his actions and those of Herzog had given the public “a very bad image of justice”.
The crimes were specified as influence-peddling and violation of professional secrecy.
It is a legal landmark for post-war France. The only precedent was the trial of Sarkozy’s right-wing predecessor Jacques Chirac, who got a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for having arranged bogus jobs at Paris City Hall for political allies when he was Paris mayor. Chirac died in 2019.
Prosecutors sought a four-year jail sentence for Sarkozy, half of which would be suspended.
The case centred on conversations between Azibert and Herzog, which were taped by investigators looking into claims that Sarkozy accepted illicit payments from the L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.
The phone line they tapped was a secret number set up in a fictional name, Paul Bismuth, through which Sarkozy communicated with his lawyer.
Sarkozy is also due to go on trial in a separate case, from 17 March to 15 April, which relates to the so-called Bygmalion affair. Sarkozy is accused of having fraudulently overspent in his 2012 presidential campaign. He had served as president since 2007 – but his 2012 re-election bid was unsuccessful.
Despite his legal entanglements Sarkozy has remained popular in right-wing circles, a year away from a presidential election. (BBC)