Five collaborators and allies of former President Nicolas Sarkozy were tried on Monday, accused of abusing public money and cronyism, adding to the legal problems of the former head of state.
Former Sarkozy chief of staff Claude Guéant and former adviser and consultant Patrick Buisson are among those accused of contracts worth several million euros for voting services.
Prosecutors say contracts signed by Sarkozy staff during his 2007-2012 term were sealed in secrecy and without competition, violating French public finance laws that require transparency and competitive bidding.
The other defendants, who face charges of favoritism, conspiracy and abuse of public funds, are former collaborators Emmanuelle Mignon and Julien Vaulpre, and former poll expert and consultant Pierre Giacometti.
The case illustrates “the way in which Nicolas Sarkozy governed, using the presidency and state resources for his personal interests, caring above all about his image and his re-election to the detriment of the law”, lawyer for the anti -corruption Anticor, Jérôme Karsenti, said before the trial.
The accused denies the charges. Sarkozy said he would not appear as a witness.
The proceedings were adjourned two hours after starting on Monday, with the judge due to decide on Tuesday whether to force Sarkozy to testify.
At the end of September, a French court sentenced the former right-wing leader to one year in prison for illegally funding his 2012 re-election bid, seven months after receiving a separate prison sentence for corruption.
Sarkozy, 66, who is appealing the two convictions, is not expected to serve a sentence behind bars as the courts have ruled that he can wear an electronic bracelet at home instead.
He promised to whitewash his name and accused French prosecutors of a “witch hunt.”
Sarkozy has also been indicted on allegations that he received millions of euros for his 2007 election campaign from the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Updated: October 18, 2021, 21:51