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France’s former president Sarkozy convicted of corruption, handed jail sentence

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy leaves after the hearing of the final verdict in a corruption trial at the Paris courthouse on March 1, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been found guilty by a court in the country’s capital, Paris, on charges of corruption and influence peddling.

Sarkozy was sentenced to three years in prison, including two years suspended on Monday, making him the second former president in modern France, after the deceased Jacques Chirac, to be convicted of corruption.

He has 10 days to appeal the ruling.

Sarkozy, who led France from 2007 to 2012, was accused of trying to bribe a magistrate in return for information about an investigation into his party finances 13 years ago.

According to prosecutors, Sarkozy and his then lawyer, Thierry Herzog, promised former senior judge, Gilbert Azibert, a plum retirement job in Monaco in exchange for inside information on an inquiry into claims he had accepted illicit payments during his 2007 presidential campaign.

The former French leader, who has already denounced the case as “a scandal that will go down in history,” fought furiously to have the case thrown out, but all to no avail.

Sarkozy’s case is known as the "wiretapping case" in France, because phone calls between him and his then lawyer were tapped in 2014, in which Sarkozy used the alias "Paul Bismuth" and they discussed Azibert.

The ex-president denied any wrongdoing, also underlining that Azibert did not get the Monaco position.

Azibert, who was a senior advisor at France's highest appeals court at the time, and Sarkozy's lawyer Herzog were also found guilty and given the same sentence on Monday.

In a separate case, Sarkozy is also scheduled to be tried on March 17, 2021, over accusations of having fraudulently overspent in his 2012 presidential campaign.

Only one other French president, Jacques Chirac, has been put on trial after leaving office. Chirac, who was president from 1995 to 2007, was convicted of misusing public funds by creating ghost jobs at Paris town hall.

He was ultimately excused from having to attend his 2011 corruption trial due to ill health, but was given a two-year suspended sentence.

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