A French judge has ordered ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy to stand trial in an illegal campaign finance case. Sarkozy faces accusations that his party falsified accounts in order to hide 18m euros (£15m; $20m) of campaign spending in 2012. Sarkozy denies he was aware of the overspending, and will appeal against the order to stand trial.
The former French President lost the 2012 Presidential race, and failed in his bid to run again in this year’s upcoming presidential election, and the case is known as the Bygmalion scandal.
It centres on claims that Sarkozy’s party, then known as the UMP, connived with a friendly PR company to hide the true cost of his 2012 presidential election campaign.
France sets limits on campaign spending, and it is alleged the firm Bygmalion invoiced Sarkozy’s party rather than the campaign, allowing the UMP to spend almost double the amount permitted.
Employees at Bygmalion have admitted knowledge of the ruse and several UMP members already face charges.
The investigation into Mr Sarkozy centres on whether the ex-leader was aware of the alleged fraud. Thirteen other people are also expected to be tried.
However, Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, has said he will launch an appeal against the trial order, because only one of the two judges handling the case signed the order.
“The clear disagreement between the two magistrates in charge of the matter is such a rare event that it is worth underlining, as it illustrates the inanity of the decision,” Herzog said in a statement.
Sarkozy is the second French president to be put on trial since 1958, when the current French republic was established.
Former leader Jacques Chirac was given a two-year suspended prison sentence in 2011 for diverting public funds and abusing public trust.