The former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been placed under investigation in a scandal over irregularities in his 2012 re-election campaign finances, dealing a serious blow to his hopes of running again in 2017. France had a ceiling on presidential campaign funding in 2012 of 22.5 million euros. The conservative Sarkozy, who was president from 2007-2012 and lost that year’s election to Socialist Francois Hollande, is accused of spending 17 million euros over that limit. Sarkozy, 61, was questioned all day on Tuesday by magistrates at the Paris financial prosecutor’s office before being notified that he was under investigation for “suspected illegal financing of an election campaign for a candidate, who went beyond the legal limit for electoral spending”. This means Sarkozy will be tied up in legal proceedings for months to come, making it hard for him to contest a center-right primary in November ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Judges will be investigating the invoice system his party and a company named Bygmalion allegedly used to conceal unauthorized overspending. His party was then called UMP but has since renamed itself Les Republicans.
Four senior figures in the 2012 campaign have already been placed under investigation for alleged political financing offences, including his campaign manager and treasurer, as well as four former Bygmalion executives.
Sarkozy’s lawyer Thierry Herzog told reporters he would appeal the decision, but that the maximum penalty he could face was a fine of 3,700 euros.