French ex-president, Sarkozy, sentenced to prison over corruption

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy leaves the courtroom during his trial on charges of corruption

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy leaves the courtroom during his trial on charges of corruption

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.

The court found that Sarkozy and his co-defendants sealed a "pact of corruption", based on "consistent and serious evidence".

Sarkozy, 66, will be the first former French president to do time if the case is not successfully appealed.

While he was given three years in prison, he will only have to serve one of them and the judge allowed it to be carried out under house arrest, rather than in a correctional facility, according to Le Monde. The former president told the court during the trial he had "never committed the slightest act of corruption".

The only other president of the Fifth Republic to be convicted by a court was Sarkozy's conservative predecessor, the late Jacques Chirac, who was found guilty of corruption in 2011.

Sarkozy's lawyers also denied the accusations of corruption and influence peddling a year ago, arguing the fact that the magistrate did not receive the allegedly promised position proved the former president's innocence.

In addition, as a lawyer by training, Sarkozy was "perfectly aware" that what he was doing was illegal, the court said.

This came to light, they said, while they were wiretapping conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog after Sarkozy left office, in relation to another investigation into alleged Libyan financing of the same campaign.

Sarkozy was on Monday handed a three-year prison sentence, with two years suspended and the option of being detained at home with an electronic bracelet for the third year.

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The corruption trial is one in several cases Sarkozy is involved in.

Sarkozy vigorously denies any malicious intention. "What right do they have to drag me through the mud like this for six years?"

Nicolas Sarkozy leaves the courtroom in Paris on Monday.

News website Mediapart said the probe targeted a payment by Russian insurance firm Reso-Garantia of 3 million euros in 2019 when Sarkozy was working as an adviser, well after leaving office.

He remains very popular amid conservative voters, however, and plays a major role behind the scenes, including through maintaining a relationship with Macron, whom he is said to advise on some issues. His memoirs published this summer, "The Time of Storms", was a bestseller for weeks.

Sarkozy will face another trial later this month along with 13 other people on charges of illegal financing of his 2012 presidential campaign.

His conservative party is suspected of having spent about $51 million, nearly twice the maximum authorized, to finance the campaign, which ended in victory for his Socialist rival, Francois Hollande.

In both cases, he has denied wrongdoing.

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