Nicolas Sarkozy ‘should stand trial’ over 2012 election spending
The French prosecutor’s office has recommended that former President Nicolas Sarkozy stand trial for breaching campaign spending limits. It follows a long investigation into claims that Mr Sarkozy’s then-UMP party falsified accounts in order to hide 18m euros (£15m; $20m) of spending in 2012.
Mr Sarkozy lost the 2012 race to Francois Hollande, but is hoping to run again in next year’s election.
He said he left it to subordinates to raise campaign funds.
The advice from the prosecutor’s office in Paris is not definitive - an investigating magistrate will now make a final decision over whether Mr Sarkozy should stand trial.
But the prosecutor says that, as the candidate, Mr Sarkozy was ultimately responsible for his own campaign - and in any case there is also considerable evidence he was warned at the time of the risks of over-spending.
The BBC correspondent in Paris Hugh Schofield says Mr Sarkozy’s legal problems are dark shadows hanging over his renewed presidential hopes and, with campaigning now well under way for the centre-right primary, it brings this major weak spot back into the public eye.
To become nominee for The Republicans, the party he renamed from the UMP, Mr Sarkozy will have to defeat ex-prime minister and mayor of Bordeaux Alain Juppe, whom he trails in opinion polls.
The affair is known as the Bygmalion scandal. It centres on claims that Mr 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 Mr Sarkozy’s party rather than the campaign, allowing the UMP to exceed the limit.
Employees at Bygmalion have admitted knowledge of the ruse and several UMP members already face charges.
However Mr Sarkozy has repeatedly denied that he was aware of the overspending.