Former French President Sarkozy denies charges in campaign financing trial

By Cindi Cook

PARIS (AA) – In a court appearance on Tuesday in the capital Paris, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy denied charges that he purposely exceeded the legal spending limit during his run for office in 2012.

Sarkozy is accused of having spent over twice the legal limit of €22.5 million ($27.5 million) in campaign spending.

According to conclusions reached by an investigative magistrate, the total cost of Sarkozy’s campaign came in at €42.8 million ($52 million). Sarkozy acknowledges that he took part in over 40 rallies from mid-February to May 2012, which the magistrate dubbed as “spectacular and expensive.”

The former French president’s accountants had advised him to halt as he had reached the limit, according to French news outlet France 24, but his zeal to defeat opponent Francois Hollande brought on the hiring of Bygmalion public relations to stage more and bigger events that would keep him in the public eye.

Sarkozy served as president from May 2007 to May 2012. His re-election bid for the highest office in France ended up in a loss.

Sarkozy, along with 13 other people, is said to have set up, or benefitted from, a fake billing scheme and system of false invoices that covered up the overspending.

Eager to clear his name, Sarkozy, 66, denied the charges during Tuesday’s proceedings, France 24 reported.

"I spent 40 years in politics, it’s my life. I know how campaigns work. Things did not get out of hand,” Sarkozy was quoted as saying.

In March, he was sentenced to three years in jail, two years of which were suspended, for influence peddling and corruption. He has filed an appeal against the judgment.

If convicted in the Bygmalion trial, the former head of the state may get one year in prison and a fine of €3,750 ($4,546).

Sarkozy remains very influential in French political circles, especially in the Republican party, and is said to be in regular touch as an advisor to President Emmanuel Macron.