France’s ex-president, Nicolas Sarkozy was earlier this month found guilty of corruption and handed a three-year prison sentence.
The court ruled that the jail sentence includes two years suspended and the remaining year can be served at home with an electronic bracelet, meaning Sarkozy will not end up behind bars over this case.
The judge, Christine Mee, found the Sarkozy had formed a “corruption pact” with his former lawyer and friend Thierry Herzog in order to convince a judge, Gilbert Azibert, to obtain and share information about a legal investigation.
The verdict read, “The facts for which Nicolas Sarkozy is guilty are particularly serious having been committed by a former president who was the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary.”
Sarkozy, a one-term president from 2007-2012, announced an appeal several hours after the Judgement, with his lawyer calling the findings “extremely severe” and “totally unfounded and unjustified.”
Wearing a dark suit and tie, the 66-year-old showed no emotion as the sentence was read out and he left court without commenting to waiting journalists.
“What a senseless witchhunt, my love Nicolas Sarkozy. The fight goes on, the truth will come out. #injustice,” his wife, former supermodel and singer Carla Bruni, posted on Instagram, next to a picture of the couple embracing.
Only one other modern French president, Sarkozy’s political mentor Jacques Chirac, has been convicted of corruption.
Chirac, who did not attend proceedings in 2011 due to ill health, received a two-year suspended sentence over the creation of ghost jobs at the Paris city hall to fund his party when he was mayor.
The judgement was based on extensive wiretaps of private conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer in 2014 during which they discussed helping a judge, Gilbert Azibert, obtain a desirable job in Monaco.
In return the judge delivered information about a judicial investigation into Sarkozy’s dealings with billionaire L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt amid allegations that she had handed over envelopes stuffed with cash for campaign financing.
Sarkozy was eventually cleared over his dealings with Bettencourt and has maintained his innocence throughout.
He told the court during his latest trial he had “never committed the slightest act of corruption.”
The judge, While reading out her sentence, said Sarkozy had “used his status as a former president… in order to favor a magistrate to serve his personal interests.”
The guilty verdict is a blow to Sarkozy’s center-right allies in the Republicans party who are struggling to coalesce around a single candidate ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Polls currently show centrist President Emmanuel Macron edging the election, followed by far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
“The severity of the punishment is absolutely out of proportion,” the head of the Republicans party, Christian Jacob, complained on Twitter.
He took aim at the specialized financial crimes prosecutors’ office which pursued Sarkozy, as well as his closest political ally while in power, former prime minister Francois Fillon.
Fillon, whose 2017 bid for the presidency was torpedoed by corruption charges, was convicted in June last year of creating a fake parliamentary job for his wife.
Political scientist Pascal Perrineau said that Sarkozy had been happy to let speculation about another tilt at the presidency in 2022 take off because it helped rehabilitate his image.
“Now it will be a lot more complicated,” he said.