Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is on trial on charges that his unsuccessful 2012 reelection bid was illegally financed, a scandal that has thrown his conservative party into turmoil.
Sarkozy, 66, is facing allegations that he spent almost twice the maximum legal amount of 22.5 million euros ($27.5 million) on the presidential race he lost to Socialist Francois Hollande. He has denied wrongdoing.
Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, faces up to one year in prison and a fine of 3,750 euros ($4,580), if found guilty.
The trial, initially scheduled to start in March but postponed because one of the lawyers was hospitalized with COVID-19, is scheduled to last until June 22.
The proceedings will get underway less than three months after Sarkozy was convicted of corruption and influence peddling in another case. He has appealed that verdict.
Following several scandals, French law since 1990 has strictly limited political campaign spending.
According to the judicial investigation in his case, Sarkozy “indisputably benefited from fraud that allowed him to have, during his 2012 campaign, resources much superior to what the law authorized.”
An investigative magistrate concluded that Sarkozy and his close entourage decided to hold “spectacular and expensive rallies.” The campaign’s total cost allegedly reached at least 42.8 million euros ($52 million).
In addition to the former president, 12 other people and the company in charge of organising the campaign rallies are facing trial on charges that include forgery, breach of trust, fraud and complicity in illegal campaign financing.
During the judicial investigation, some of them admitted wrongdoing.
The scandal prompted a destructive battle within the party as its leaders blamed each other.
Sarkozy has denied that illegal money financed his campaign. He also said he doesn’t remember two notes from his campaign accountants, allegedly given to him weeks before the election, warning against racking up additional expenses.