- Sarkozy put under formal investigation
- Probe concerns over spending in 2012 election campaign
- Severe blow to hopes of running again in 2017
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been placed under formal investigation over his 2012 election campaign costs which were more than twice the legal limit.
The move is a prelude to a possible trial but does not lead automatically to prosecution. Sarkozy has repeatedly denied any knowledge of over spending.
Sarkozy is the head of France’s centre-right The Republicans political party (previously the UMP) and was the president of France from 2007 to 2012.
It is the latest in a series of investigations involving Sarkoyz’s 2012 campaign. He’s been designated as an “assisted-witness” in connection with a wider scandal involving a Public Relations company called Bygmalion and political funding offences. His witness status means he’s not currently being prosecuted.
Four senior figures in Sarkozy’s 2012 campaign, including his campaign manager and treasurer, have previously been placed under formal investigation in relation to what has come to be known as the Bygmalion scandal.
It is alleged that millions of euros in false invoices were issued by the Bygmalion PR company, which organised some of Sarkozy’s appearances during his campaign.
Bygmalion allegedly charged 18.5m euros to the party instead of to the Sarkozy campaign, allowing the campaign to greatly exceed the spending limit of 22.5m euros.
Tuesday’s legal developments deal a serious blow to Sarkozy’s hopes of running again for president . He’ll probably be too busy to contest a primary in November ahead of next year’s presidential election.
It now throws the presidential race wide open at a time when ex-Prime Minister Alain Juppe has taken a solid lead in opinion polls over at least six other declared contenders for the centre-right nomination, with more expected to enter the contest soon.
The winner of the primary is likely to face incumbent Socialist President Francois Hollande and far-right anti-immigration populist Marine Le Pen, although Hollande has not announced whether he will run again.
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