PARIS – Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was ordered Tuesday to stand trial in an inquiry into alleged campaign finance fraud during his failed 2012 re-election bid, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
Sarkozy and 13 other “protagonists” will go to court on the order of a magistrate to answer allegations that his presidential campaign spent well above the legal ceiling of 22.5 million euros ($24 million) and tried to cover it up fraudulently, the office said.
The claims center on whether the 61-year-old politician was aware of alleged false billing and fraud linked to PR company Bygmalion, where some executives have acknowledged false accounting.
Sarkozy denies any wrongdoing and his camp says it will appeal the decision.
The news may further erode public trust in politics as Sarkozy’s former no. 2, Francois Fillon, their party’s candidate in this spring’s presidential election, fights for his political life over an investigation into whether well-paid political jobs he gave his wife, son and daughter were fake.
Conservative lawmakers have been summoned Tuesday for a meeting at Fillon’s headquarters to form a united front around the ex-prime minister ahead of the April-May elections.
In 2011, former President Jacques Chirac was given a two-year suspended jail sentence in a scandal over phony jobs.