Nicolas Sarkozy, a former French president, has been handed a three-year prison sentence on Monday after a court in Paris convicted him for trying to illegally influence a judge while in office.
It is, however, unlikely that Sarkozy will physically go to prison as the sentence includes two years suspended.
The 66-year-old, who ruled France from 2007 to 2012, was handed a verdict which is the latest twist in his tumultuous political career, although he remains a favourite for many on the right.
The conviction is likely to undermine any attempted comeback to frontline politics; an ambition he has denied, but which has been promoted by many supporters ahead of the European country‘s 2022 presidential elections.
The verdict on Monday related to a case of influence peddling and corruption, one of at least four separate investigations into the former leader.
Sarkozy was accused of offering to help a judge obtain a senior job in Monaco in exchange for putting pressure on an inquiry into his campaign finances.
The former president told the court during the trial he had “never committed the slightest act of corruption.”
Prosecutors called for him to be jailed for four years and serve a minimum of two, and asked for the same punishment for his co-defendants, Thierry Herzog, a lawyer; and the judge Gilbert Azibert.
Prosecutor, Jean-Luc Blachon, told the court as the trial wound up in December:
The events would not have occurred if a former president, as well as a lawyer, had kept in mind the magnitude, the responsibility, and the duties of his office.
The graft and influence-peddling charges, among several legal cases against him, carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of one million euros ($1.2 million).
Prosecutors say Sarkozy and Herzog tried to bribe judge Azibert over an inquiry into claims the former leader had received illicit payments from L’Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, during his successful 2007 presidential campaign.
The state’s case is based on wiretaps of conversations between Herzog and Sarkozy, with prosecutors accusing him of “using secret telephone lines” to cover up his attempt to infiltrate the court.
Prosecutor, Celine Guillet said it had been established “with certainty” that judge Azibert transmitted confidential information about the Bettencourt case to his friend Herzog.
One conversation “overwhelmingly” showed that Sarkozy had promised to intervene to get Azibert a post in Monaco, she said.