Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was handed a one-year prison sentence by a Paris court on Thursday after being found guilty of illegal campaign financing over his failed 2012 re-election bid.
Sarkozy, 66, is unlikely to go to jail. He is expected to appeal the sentence, a move that will in effect suspend it, and the judge said he could serve the sentence at home with an electronic tag.
It was the second conviction this year for Sarkozy, who led France from 2007 to 2012 and retains influence among conservatives despite falling from grace over his legal problems.
His conservative party, the prosecutors said, spent nearly double the 22.5 million euros (currently $19.2 million) allowed under electoral law on extravagant campaign rallies and then hired a friendly public relations agency to hide the cost.
Sarkozy has denied wrongdoing. He said he was not involved in the logistics of his campaign for a second term as president or in how money was spent during the election run-up.
“Can you imagine me going into a meeting to discuss the cost of flags?” he told the court in June. “I had too much to do.”
“From the moment I was told things were in order, I had no reason to give it more thought.”
But the court said Sarkozy was made aware of the overspending, that he did not act on it, and that it was not necessary for him to approve each individual spending to be responsible.
Several others who faces charges were found guilty of fraud over the campaign financing and sentenced to up to 3-1/2 years in jail and hefty fines.
Sarkozy was found guilty in a separate trial in March of trying to bribe a judge and peddle influence in order to obtain confidential information on a judicial inquiry. He also denied any wrongdoing in that case.
The former president was sentenced to three years in jail in that trial – two of which were suspended – but has not actually spent time in prison yet, while his appeal is pending.
The two convictions may force Sarkozy to play a more discreet role in next year’s presidential election. He had not planned to be a candidate but, as a popular figure on the right, he would be expected to support his party’s candidate.