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Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy moved a step closer to facing trial over campaign funding irregularities on Thursday when a court rejected a defense request to halt proceedings against one of 14 suspects in the case.
A Paris appeal court threw out a request from the defence to drop the case against Guillaume Lambert, the director of Sarkozy’s unsuccessful 2012 re-election campaign, in a move that lawyers said likely removes the last obstacle to the case going to trial.
Sarkozy may thus be facing time in court over suspicions that his campaign purposefully exceeded legal spending limits.
The case focuses on the Bygmalion public relations firm, which organised some of Sarkozy’s campaign appearances. Bygmalion allegedly charged Sarkozy’s party €18.5 million ($19.3 million) for services rendered instead of billing the president’s campaign directly, which is standard practice.
As a result, the prosecution says, the campaign was able to exceed the legal spending limit of €22.5 million.
Bygmalion executives have acknowledged instances of fraud and false billing, but no-one has directly accused Sarkozy of knowing about the charges or making the billing decisions.