Ex-French president Sarkozy loses latest court appeal in campaign financing case

PARIS (Reuters) – Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has lost an appeal against an earlier decision to send him to trial over charges of illegal campaign financing, and his lawyer said he would challenge the decision in France’s highest appeals court.

If Sarkozy stands trial, he would be the second French president in the dock since Jacques Chirac, who was president from 1995 to 2007. Chirac was given a suspended sentence in 2011 after being convicted of misusing public funds.

The so-called “Bygmalion” campaign financing affair centers on accusations that Sarkozy’s party, then known as the UMP, connived with a friendly public relations firm to hide the true cost of his 2012 presidential election campaign.

France sets limits on campaign spending, and prosecutors allege that the firm Bygmalion invoiced Sarkozy’s party rather than the campaign, allowing the UMP to spend almost double the amount permitted.

After five years in power, Sarkozy was defeated by Socialist Francois Hollande when he ran for a second term in 2012. He has since faced a series of investigations into alleged corruption, fraud, favoritism and campaign-funding irregularities.

Sarkozy has denied charges of wrongdoing and has vowed to have all cases dismissed. His lawyer said he would challenge the latest decision in France’s Supreme Court of Appeal.

Under French law, a suspect is not formally charged with a crime unless he is sent to trial.

On Oct. 8, Sarkozy lost a first appeal against facing trial over separate influence peddling and corruption charges.

In that case, Sarkozy is suspected of helping a prosecutor get promoted in return for leaked information about a separate criminal inquiry.

Sarkozy lost presidential immunity from legal prosecution a month after he left office.

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