Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared in court Tuesday, denying wrongdoing and showing anger at accusations during a trial over the allegedly illegal financing of his unsuccessful 2012 re-election bid.
Sarkozy, 66, is facing allegations that he spent almost twice the maximum legal amount of 22.5 million euros ($27.5 million) on the presidential race he lost to Socialist Francois Hollande.
Sarkozy made his first appearance Tuesday at the trial which started last month. The Paris court is seeking to determine whether he was aware of the system of false invoices that was meant to cover up the overspending.
“You have in front of you someone whose life has been dedicated to politics for 40 years,” he told the court, describing how he took part in over 40 rallies, in addition to newspaper interviews and television shows between mid-February and May 2012.
Voice raised in anger, Sarkozy said he had the political leadership of the campaign, but was not involved in organization and logistical details, stressing that as the incumbent president he had other priorities.
He said he “never” gave any direct instruction to service providers in charge of the organization of his rallies, because he had a team to do that.
Sarkozy also strongly denied that his 2012 re-election bid had been organized on a much broader scale than his successful 2007 campaign — whose financing has not been put into question.
“I’d like someone to explain to me how my campaign was bigger in 2012 than in 2007? That’s not true. And if someone knows it, that’s me!” he said.
The comments came in response to an investigative magistrate’s conclusions that Sarkozy and his team decided to hold “spectacular and expensive rallies” in 2012. The campaign’s total cost allegedly reached at least 42.8 million euros ($52 million).
The investigation did not establish whether Sarkozy allegedly took an active part in the process or ordered fraudulent actions himself.
In addition to the former president, 12 other people and the company in charge of organizing the campaign rallies face charges that include forgery, breach of trust, fraud and complicity in illegal campaign financing.
Following several scandals, French law since 1990 has strictly limited political campaign spending.
The proceedings got underway less than three months after Sarkozy was convicted of corruption and influence-peddling in another case. He has appealed that verdict.
Sarkozy retired from active politics in 2017 but still has a lot of influence behind the scenes, especially within The Republicans party ahead of next year’s presidential election. French media have reported that he maintains regular contact with centrist President Emmanuel Macron, whom Sarkozy is said to be advising.
The trial is scheduled to last until June 22, with a verdict expected to be delivered at a later date.
Factbox: France's Sarkozy faces more than one criminal investigationFormer French president Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty on Monday of corruption and influence-peddling and handed a three-year sentence.It was a ... World News
French court finds former President Sarkozy guilty of corruptionJudges found former president Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of trying to bribe a judge and of influence-peddling on Monday and sentenced him to three years ... World News
Lebanon releases French-Lebanese businessman linked to Sarkozy probeLebanon’s prosecutor general on Monday ordered the release of a Lebanese-French businessman linked to the probe of alleged illegal funding of former ... World News
Lebanese businessman detained in Beirut over alleged Sarkozy-Gaddafi corruptionLebanon detained a French-Lebanese businessman linked to allegations of covert Libyan financing for former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 ... Middle East