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French Prosecutor Requests Criminal Trial for Sarkozy

  • Associated Press

FILE - Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, poses prior to a TV interviews at French TV station TF1 in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, Aug. 24, 2016.

FILE - Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, poses prior to a TV interviews at French TV station TF1 in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, Aug. 24, 2016.

A French prosecutor has requested a criminal trial for former President Nicolas Sarkozy over suspected illegal overspending on his failed 2012 re-election campaign.

The Paris prosecutor's office said Monday it has asked investigating judges to send Sarkozy and 13 others to court in the case. It's now up to the judges to decide whether Sarkozy must stand trial.

Sarkozy announced his bid for next year's presidential election last month and faces a primary in November against a dozen other conservative candidates.

If the investigating judges eventually decide to send Sarkozy to court, it's unlikely any trial could be held before the April-May presidential election. If Sarkozy was elected next year, he would be granted immunity as president and would not be able to stand trial in the case before the end of the five-year term.

In February, the judges handed Sarkozy preliminary charges of alleged illegal campaign financing over an invoice system his party and a company named Bygmalion allegedly used to conceal unauthorized overspending.

France had a ceiling on presidential campaign funding in 2012 of 22.5 million euros ($25 million). The conservative Sarkozy, who was president from 2007-2012 and lost that year's election to Socialist Francois Hollande, is accused of spending 17 million euros ($19 million) over that limit.

Sarkozy's party was then called UMP but has since renamed itself the Republicans. He quit as party leader when he announced his bid two weeks ago.

Several people close to Sarkozy are among those requested to stand trial in the case. The former president has already paid back 364,000 euros ($407,000) for overspending in the campaign.

"We are absolutely serene about the fact that all this will end up in a dismissed case,'' said Daniel Fasquelle, the treasurer of the Republicans. "I'm also surprised that this news is being announced today... as Nicolas Sarkozy just started his campaign.''

The so-called "Bygmalion case'' is one of several legal cases in which his name has surfaced. In a separate case, Sarkozy has been given preliminary charges of corruption and influence-peddling based on information gleaned from phone taps. Preliminary charges mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed but give them more time to investigate before deciding whether to send suspects to trial.

Sarkozy has not been convicted of any wrongdoing or gone to trial.

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