Sarkozy under fire over funding scandal

Nicolas Sarkozy came under fresh pressure over an election funding scandal on Wednesday as France`s Socialist government demanded full disclosure of the former president`s campaign financing.

AFP| Last Updated: May 28, 2014, 22:35 PM IST

Paris: Nicolas Sarkozy came under fresh pressure over an election funding scandal on Wednesday as France`s Socialist government demanded full disclosure of the former president`s campaign financing.

"In a presidential campaign there are clear rules about financing limits, so it is important now that a full disclosure is made," said government spokesman Stephane Le Foll.

It was a statement made purely for political effect. The government has no say in the ongoing legal probes that have been linked to Sarkozy`s electoral campaigns, or on the body that oversees election financing.
Sarkozy has been left in what one observer described as a "lose-lose" situation by claims that USD 13.6m spent on his 2012 bid for re-election were fraudulently billed as party expenses.

The events-PR company doing the billing, Bygmalion, was run by two close associates of Jean-Francois Cope, the leader of the UMP who was forced to stand down yesterday as a result of the

candal.

Nobody appears to contest that the UMP paid out around 10 million euros on the basis of false invoices and that Cope signed off on the payments.
What is not clear is why the bills were falsified.

Was it to disguise expenses incurred as part of Sarkozy`s election campaign, as lawyers for Bygmalion and a former aide to the ex-president have testified.

Or was it for the personal gain of the company that was doing the invoicing?

To date, Sarkozy has not been implicated directly in the scandal. But it has nonetheless been interpreted as another blow to his chances of staging a comeback in time for the 2017 presidential contest.

Thomas Guenole, the author of a book on Sarkozy`s post-presidential career, said it was hard to believe that he could not have been aware that his campaign had been bolstered by additional funds equivalent to more than 50 per cent of the maximum he was legally permitted to spend.