Sarkozy a No-Show as Second Criminal Trial Begins in Paris

Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy didn’t show up for his second criminal trial in six months, in a case where judges will scrutinize whether he deliberately broke campaign spending limits in his failed 2012 reelection bid.

French investigators say Sarkozy ignored accountants' warnings as his relentless campaigning racked up costs of at least 42.8 million euros ($52.3 million), or about twice as much as was legally allowed. The former head of state, who is under no obligation to appear in court at the onset of the trial, is expected to testify last of all the defendants. He faces a maximum one-year jail term.

Sarkozy a No-Show as Second Criminal Trial Begins in Paris

Since leaving office, Sarkozy has had to face a series of allegations of impropriety. Earlier this year he became the second French head of state in modern times convicted of a crime when he was found guilty of corruption. The 66-year-old has also been questioned several times over allegations of illegal funding of his winning 2007 campaign by the regime of Libya’s former leader Muammar al-Qaddafi.

Sarkozy’s longtime lawyer Thierry Herzog is representing him at the trial. Herzog along with the ex-president was convicted of corruption. The first day at the Paris court is set to deal with procedural requests put forward by defendants. 

Herzog -- who, like Sarkozy, is appealing his conviction -- raised double jeopardy concerns on Wednesday, reiterating that he considers the campaign issue settled because Sarkozy already paid a penalty. 

He criticized the indictment ordering Sarkozy to face trial. He said it should be considered null and void because the charges brought against the former the ex-premier failed to specify how much his campaign in 2012 spent.

"The 42.8 million-euro amount was never mentioned," Herzog said. "You can only try Nicolas Sarkozy if the indictment is above board."

The case is known as the Bygmalion affair, after a communications company hired to organize Sarkozy’s rallies during the 2012 election fight. It has become a symbol of the bitter infighting within the ranks of the center-right party he used to lead, with various factions trying to shift the blame throughout the investigation.

Despite his departure from politics, the former French president still attracts media coverage about his perceived closeness to current President Emmanuel Macron, his relationship with model-turned-singer Carla Bruni and his legal woes.

The spending-limits court case was due to start in March but it was postponed after a lawyer for another defendant was diagnosed with coronavirus. Other defendants in the case are accused of participating in a system of fake invoices and risk as long as five years in jail. The trial is due to run until June 22 with a ruling expected to be issued several months later.

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