NEW DELHI, Mar 1: The former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption on Monday and handed a three-year prison sentence after a court in Paris convicted him of trying to illegally influence a judge during his time in office.
The sentence included two years suspended, which means it is unlikely Sarkozy will physically go to prison.
He is almost certain to appeal and remain free, with no arrest warrant issued.
The verdict is the latest twist in the tumultuous political career of the 66-year-old who ruled France from 2007 to 2012 and remains a favourite for many on the right.
The conviction is likely to undermine any attempted comeback to frontline politics, an ambition he has denied, but which has been promoted by many supporters ahead of 2022 presidential elections.
Only one other French president, Sarkozy’s political mentor Jacques Chirac, was put on trial after leaving office, but he was excused from having to attend his 2011 corruption trial because of ill health.
Chirac 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 verdict on Monday related to a case of influence peddling and corruption, one of at least four separate investigations into the former leader, who married former supermodel and singer Carla Bruni while in office.
Sarkozy was accused of offering to help a judge obtain a senior job in Monaco in exchange for putting pressure on an inquiry into his campaign finances.
The former president told the court during the trial he had “never committed the slightest act of corruption”.
Prosecutors say Sarkozy and his co-defendant — lawyer Thierry Herzog tried to bribe judge Azibert over an inquiry into claims the former leader had received illicit payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt during his successful 2007 presidential campaign.
The state’s case is based on wiretaps of conversations between Herzog and Sarkozy, with prosecutors accusing him of “using secret telephone lines” to cover up his attempt to infiltrate the court.
Prosecutor Celine Guillet said it had been established “with certainty” that judge Azibert transmitted confidential information about the Bettencourt case to his friend Herzog.
One conversation “overwhelmingly” showed that Sarkozy had promised to intervene to get Azibert a post in Monaco, she said.