Ex-French president Nicolas Sarkozy to face campaign spending fraud trial

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been ordered to stand trial on allegations his campaign tried to cover up overspending during his failed 2012 re-election bid.

Sarkozy denies wrongdoing, lawyer plans to appeal trial order

Nicolas Sarkozy is accused of covering up irregularities in campaign funding. The former French president's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, described the trial order as 'inane' and said he would appeal. (Ian Langsdon/Pool Photo/Associated Press)

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 US) and tried to cover it up fraudulently, the office said.

The claims centre on whether the 62-year-old politician was aware of alleged false billing and fraud linked to public relations company Bygmalion, where some executives have acknowledged false accounting.

Sarkozy denies any wrongdoing and his lawyer Thierry Herzog says he will appeal the decision to go ahead with a trial.

The news may further erode public trust in politics as Sarkozy's former No. 2, François 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 legislators were 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 fake jobs.