Ex-president Sarkozy to stand trial for alleged corruption, influence peddling in France
Former leader has faced a series of investigations since losing bid for re-election in 2012
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy will face trial over charges he misused his influence to secure leaked details of an inquiry into alleged irregularities in his 2007 election campaign, a source close to the investigation said on Thursday.
Sarkozy's lawyers said he would appeal the decision to send him to court, initially reported by the French daily Le Monde.
"Nicolas Sarkozy will … calmly wait for the result of the motion for a declaration of invalidity. He does not doubt that once again the truth will triumph," his lawyers said in a statement. Sarkozy's appeal will be heard on June 25, it said.
The case came about after investigators used phone taps to examine separate allegations that late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi funded Sarkozy's campaign and began to suspect he had kept tabs on a separate case through a network of informants.
Thursday's development came just over a week after Sarkozy, 63, was told he was being formally treated as a suspect in the election campaign investigation.
Sarkozy was president from 2007 to 2012 but was defeated by Socialist François Hollande when he ran for re-election. He has since faced a series of investigations into alleged corruption, fraud, favouritism and campaign funding irregularities.
Under French law, a suspect is not formally charged with a crime unless he is sent to trial.
Sarkozy's lawyers had previously argued that magistrates investigating the alleged secret Libyan funding exceeded their powers and went on a "fishing expedition" by tapping his conversations with them between September 2013 and March 2014, breaching lawyer-client privilege.
Based on the intercepts, Sarkozy is accused of having discussed offering a promotion to a prosecutor in return for tip-offs on an investigation into his former party treasurer and others. They were accused of exploiting the mental frailty of France's richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt, to extract political donations in cash.
The source close to the investigation said that along with Sarkozy, one of his lawyers, Thierry Herzog, and the prosecutor would also face trial on the same charges.
Influence-peddling can be punished in France by up to five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 euros ($793,115 Cdn.). Sarkozy lost presidential immunity from legal prosecution a month after he left office in June 2012.
He already faces trial on separate charges of illicit spending overruns during his failed re-election campaign in 2012.
Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was convicted in 2011, after his retirement, of misusing public funds to keep political allies in phantom jobs. That made the now ailing Chirac the first French head of state convicted since Nazi collaborator Marshal Philippe Petain in 1945.
Sarkozy has been dogged for years by political scandals, but none has led to a conviction.