Bygmalion trial: Nicolas Sarkozy's defense pleads for acquittal on appeal for lack of "intentional element"

Nicolas Sarkozy's lawyer pleaded Friday, December 1 for his release from the appeal trial on the excessive spending of his lost presidential campaign in 2012, reaffirming that the former head of state had "no knowledge" of the budgetary slippages

Bygmalion trial: Nicolas Sarkozy's defense pleads for acquittal on appeal for lack of "intentional element"

Nicolas Sarkozy's lawyer pleaded Friday, December 1 for his release from the appeal trial on the excessive spending of his lost presidential campaign in 2012, reaffirming that the former head of state had "no knowledge" of the budgetary slippages.

While the public prosecutor requested the day before a year of suspended imprisonment against the former head of state, who had been sentenced in first instance to one year of imprisonment, his lawyer Me Vincent Desry opened the ball pleadings which must end next Thursday. The decision of the court of appeal will then be reserved.

"Mr. Sarkozy was never aware of an excess" of the legal ceiling for electoral expenses, he "never incurred any expenses", stated his counsel by opening two hours of sober pleading, breaking with the more animated defense of his client during his interrogation on Friday.

Me Desry considered that the judgment of the criminal court in September 2021 was “erroneous” and “ill-founded in law and in fact”.

Sentence required less severe than at first instance

In this case known as Bygmalion, named after the company which organized the campaign meetings of the right-wing candidate, ten people, including Nicolas Sarkozy, have been retried since November 8 by the Paris Court of Appeal. Unlike his co-defendants, the former head of state is not accused of the system of false invoices designed to hide the explosion in his campaign's expenses which reached nearly 43 million euros while the legal limit was 22.5 million.

But, in its judgment, the court emphasized that the former tenant of the Elysée had “continued to organize electoral meetings”, “requesting one meeting per day”, even though he “had been warned in writing” the risk of legal overrun, then the actual overrun. “There was nothing fatal about this spending trend,” said Advocate General Bruno Revel in his submissions on Thursday, for whom it was the result of “the choice imposed by the candidate.”

With his colleague Serge Roques, however, he asked for a less severe sentence for Nicolas Sarkozy than that to which he was sentenced, a one-year suspended prison sentence, explaining that the defendant was "not reproached for being at the origin of the system put in place” to hide the slippages nor “having been informed of them”.

No “intentional” or “material” element

“I was only able to note a receding accusation,” observed Friday Me Desry, judging that it had been “impossible” for the public prosecutor to “demonstrate the intentional element” and the “material element” of the the alleged offense. According to him, if Nicolas Sarkozy “was not informed of the fraud, he could not have been informed of the excess”.

During his interrogation, the ex-president "explained that every campaign will crescendo", he recalled, contesting the idea of ​​a "runaway" of that of 2012. The argument put forward of the "splendour of the meetings ", which should have alerted the candidate about his expenses, is an "a posteriori construction", dismissed Me Desry, arguing that at the time, the press spoke of events in a "more sober tone » than five years ago.

The lawyer also returned to the warning notes written by accountants during the campaign. When his client was informed of the first, at the beginning of March 2012, which mentioned a risk of exceeding the ceiling, "he was simultaneously informed of the implementation of corrective measures", argued Me Desry. “Savings measures have been taken, varied and numerous”, for “at least 3 million euros”.

A second note, written after the first round, indicates that “the ceiling is not reached,” he continued. Finally a third, presenting the campaign account, dated June 28 and signed by Nicolas Sarkozy, indicates that it “is in balance” and “does not indicate any risk of rejection”.

“My client has often been described as omnipresident,” remarked the lawyer, “that does not make him omniscient.”