Paris-French former President Nicolas Sarkozy was shocked to know that he, with 13 other people, might be trialed before a criminal court for suspected illegal financing of his failed re-election presidential campaign in 2012.
The move was a major blow to the former French president’s hopes to run for re-election next year just days after he announced his decision to join the race in a book.
Sarkozy’s Lawyer Thierry Herzog claimed his client was the target of a “crude” political smear campaign.
He issued a statement accusing the state prosecutor, which answers to the justice ministry, of a “shoddy political maneuver.”
Herzog blasted the timing of the decision as “a crude political stunt” as it came on the day that “the trial of a former minister of Socialist President François Hollande is standing trial.”
Jéröme Cahuzac, Hollande’s former budget minister, was in court on Monday on charges of squirreling away hundreds of thousands of euros in offshore accounts while fronting a campaign to crack down on tax evasion.
“Two years of investigation have demonstrated Sarkozy’s total lack of involvement in allegedly illicit acts,” said Thierry Herzog.
The 61-year-old was placed under investigation in February for “suspected illegal financing of an election campaign for a candidate, who went beyond the legal limit for electoral spending.”
The Right-winger has repeatedly denied knowledge of dual accounting and false invoices issued by the “Bygmalion” event organization company that meant his campaign costs were more than double the legal limit.
Legally, nothing prevents him from seeking office. He faces a primary in November against an array of other conservative candidates.
His name has surfaced in several legal cases in recent years, yet Sarkozy still enjoys high popularity among right-wing voters and is widely considered by political experts as one of the few serious contenders for presidency.
Recent polls show his main competitor in the conservative party, former Prime Minister Alain Juppe, is still the favorite of the primary but Sarkozy, in second position, is getting closer.