France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy convicted of corruption, sentenced to jail

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It comes as former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption today at a court in Paris and convicted for trying to illegally influence a judge during his time in office.

Sarkozy had denied any wrongdoing, saying he was the victim of a witch-hunt by financial prosecutors who used excessive means to snoop on his affairs.

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.

Sarkozy's two co-defendants were also found guilty and given the same sentence.

Sarkozy has 10 days to appeal the ruling.

Sarkozy's lawyers argued this pointed to the absence of corruption but prosecutors said French law makes no distinction between a successful corruption attempt and a failed one.

The 66-year-old was also sentenced to a one-year prison term, though under the French system he's unlikely to serve it, even if he fails to overturn the verdict on appeal. "That is all it is, a little help", he said during the trial.

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But the late Jacques Chirac was too sick to attend court before he was found guilty in 2011 of misusing Paris city funds. "What right do they have to drag me through the mud like this for six years?"

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.

Asked by Reuters if Sarkozy's conviction could pose a risk to his position as member of Lagardère's supervisory group, a spokesman for the media group said: "We are delighted with Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy's contribution and personal investment in Lagardère's supervisory board".

Prosecutors believe Sarkozy was at some point informed that the secret phones were being wiretapped and that it is the reason why he did not ultimately help Azibert get the job. "What did I do to deserve that?" "You don't have the beginning of a piece of evidence, not the slightest witness account, the slightest declaration", she told the court.

Sarkozy's long-running legal travails helped sink his comeback bid for the 2017 presidential vote, but he has surfed on a wave of popularity since announcing his retirement from politics in 2018.

He remains very popular amid right-wing voters, however, and plays a major role behind the scenes, including through maintaining a relationship with Macron, whom he is said to advise on certain topics. His memoirs published past year, "The Time of Storms", was a bestseller for weeks.

Sarkozy did not deny offering to help Azibert get a job in Monaco - but he firmly refuted that he had done anything wrong during the 10-day trial at the end of past year. His conservative party and a company named Bygmalion are accused of using a special invoice system to hide allegedly spending 42.8 million euros (NZ$70.9 million) - nearly twice the maximum authorised. Sarkozy is accused of having fraudulently overspent in his 2012 presidential campaign.

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