A French court on Monday convicted former French President Nicolas Sarkozy of corruption and influence-peddling charges and sentenced him to three years in prison, two of which were suspended, this comes against the backdrop of another investigation into him over the Libyan financing of his 2007 election campaign.
Sarkozy was accused of helping a judge get a top job in Monaco in exchange for information about an investigation into his campaign finance issues, reports AFP.
Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, firmly denied all the allegations against him during the 10-day trial that took place last year.
Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, and the senior judge, Gilbert Azibert, also denied wrongdoing. Both have been handed the same sentence as Sarkozy. Herzog, who was also slapped with a five-year professional ban, has appealed the ruling.
Prosecutors had requested two years of prison and a two-year suspended sentence for all three defendants over what they said was a "corruption pact.''
"No pact has ever existed," Sarkozy told the court. "Neither in my head nor in reality.'' "I want to be cleared of that infamy,'' he added.
Sarkozy withdrew from politics in 2016 but remains popular on the right, a year before the next presidential election.
He is expected to appeal the sentence and remain free because no arrest warrant has been issued. But the ruling will likely undermine any attempt by Sarkozy to return to the political arena, an ambition he has denied seeking but many of his supporters are promoting his candidacy for the 2022 election.
The case dates back to 2014 after investigators from the newly-created Parquet National Financier (National Financial Prosecutor's Office) tapped Sarkozy and Herzog's phones over allegations the former president had illegally received millions of euros from the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to fund his successful 2007 presidential campaign.
At the time, Sarkozy, who had been ousted from office by François Hollande two years prior, was also being investigated for allegedly taking illegal payments from billionaire Liliane Bettencourt, the heiress to the L'Oréal empire, to fund his presidential aspirations.
Phone conversations recorded between Sarkozy and Herzog made investigators suspect the former French leader had offered to use his contacts to get the judge Azibert a coveted position in Monaco, in exchange for information about the investigation into the Bettencourt case.
As part of an investigation into suspicions of Libyan financing of his 2007 election campaign, in which he was charged with four counts, judges discovered that Sarkozy was using a secret telephone line under the name "Paul Bismuth" to communicate with his lawyer. The discharge of about a dozen of their communications allegedly showed "intent on corruption" between Nicolas Sarkozy, his lawyer and former judge.