Nicolas Sarkozy’s Prison Sentence Halved to 6 Months

A Paris appeals court upheld on Wednesday the 2021 conviction of former President Nicolas Sarkozy for illegal financing an election campaign but cut his sentence from one year to six months with a further six months suspended.

Mr. Sarkozy’s lawyer, Vincent Desry, immediately said that Mr. Sarkozy would appeal to France’s highest court. “Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy is fully innocent,” he said. “He has taken note of this decision and decided to appeal to the Court of Cassation.”

The appeal could take years to be resolved, ensuring that Mr. Sarkozy remains free for the foreseeable future. Whether he will ever serve time in prison remains an open question.

The former president, known for his irrepressible energy and blunt style, hurried out of court and did not take questions. He governed France between 2007 and 2012 and was sometimes dubbed “Sarko the American” for his initial embrace of free-market policies and a can-do meritocracy at some distance from the broad social protections of the French model.

Although his legal travails are many and various, he has remained an important political figure, with some influence over President Emmanuel Macron, who often turns to Mr. Sarkozy’s center-right Republicans party for support in Parliament.

The verdict on Wednesday centered on the “Bygmalion affair,” so called because Mr. Sarkozy is accused of turning to a public relations and event planning company of that name to hide the true cost of his failed 2012 re-election campaign. Under French law, spending on electoral campaigns is capped to ensure a level playing field.

Prosecutors argued that the company issued false invoices to hide overspending from political authorities.

In 2021, he was convicted in another case on charges of corruption and influence peddling for trying to obtain information illegally from a judge to whom he promised favors. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

That sentence was upheld last year on appeal but is being reviewed on Mr. Sarkozy’s further appeal by the Court of Cassation, meaning that the former president now has two cases pending before the highest court in the land.

Mr. Sarkozy is also facing charges of having financed his successful 2007 presidential bid in part with funds provided by the former regime of Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya. That trial is set to be begin early next year.

He is also under preliminary judicial investigation for having received over $500,000 from a Russian insurance company in 2020. The inquiry seeks to establish whether this was simply a consulting fee, which would be legal, or involved lobbying on behalf of Russian oligarchs, which may not be legal.

Mr. Sarkozy, 69, has persistently denied any wrongdoing and portrayed himself in the overspending case as far too busy with the affairs of the world to have been aware of the cost of rallies, sound systems and lighting in a whirlwind campaign.