Nicolas Sarkozy is found guilty of illegal campaign financing

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been found guilty of illegally financing his 2012 re-election campaign.

He was given a one-year sentence, six months of which were suspended.

Sarkozy was accused of overspending on his campaign, and then hired a PR firm to cover it up, the BBC reported on Wednesday. He has always denied all the charges.

The case has since become known as the Bygmalion affair, after the firm's name.

Wednesday's ruling came after an appeals court in Paris upheld an earlier ruling by a lower court. The lower court had originally sentenced Sarkozy to one year in prison.

His lawyer said he will appeal the new sentence to France's highest court. This means it will be put on hold and Sarkozy will not go straight to prison.

If the conviction is upheld, he will most likely be forced to wear an electronic bracelet, perform community service or pay a fine.

Prosecutors said Sarkozy's UMP party spent nearly double the 22.5 million euro limit on his campaign, spending on lavish campaign rallies and events. To hide the costs, she then asked Bygmalion to bill the party and not the campaign.

While prosecutors admit they cannot prove Sarkozy organized or was involved in the scheme, they say he must have been aware of it.

Nicolas Sarkozy served a five-year term as president, until 2012.

Since losing his re-election bid to Socialist François Hollande in 2012, he has been the target of several criminal investigations.

In 2023, he was given a suspended prison sentence for trying to bribe a judge in 2014. He was sentenced to three years in prison - including two suspended - but appealed the decision.

The 68-year-old is the first former French president to receive a prison sentence.

Next year, Sarkozy will stand trial on charges that he received illegal funds for his 2007 presidential campaign from late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.