France

France's former opposition leader Copé under investigation over Sarkozy fine

Former UMP president Jean-François Copé
Former UMP president Jean-François Copé Reuters/Stephane Mahe

Jean-François Copé, former president of the right wing opposition UMP party, has been placed under official investigation for suspected misuse of funds, according to judicial sources.

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Copé appeared before investigating magistrates on Tuesday morning in connection with the payment by the UMP, under Copé’s leadership, of personal fines imposed on Nicolas Sarkozy for overspending on his 2012 re election campaign.

The National Commission of Campaign Accounts, which monitors expenditure on election campaigns, found in December 2012 that Nicolas Sarkozy had spent 360,000 more than the maximum sum allowed on his 2012 campaign.

The Commission demanded that the UMP refund 11 million euros of public subsidy, corresponding to 47.5 % of the cost of Sarkozy’s campaign.

The Commission also imposed a personal fine on Sarkozy of 360,000 euros.

Already in financial difficulties, the UMP launched a huge appeal, dubbed the Sarkothon and within two months supporters had contributed the full 11 million euros.

At the same time, the UMP, under Copé’s leadership, paid off Sarkozy’s personal 360,000 fine.

In October, the Bygmalion affair (allegations of deliberately inflating invoices during the election campaign) led to the resignation as UMP party leader of Jean-François Copé.

The party was put under the interim leadership of three former UMP prime ministers: Alain Juppé, Jean-Pierre Raffarin and François Fillon.

Fillon, who has long accused Copé of dishonesty, asked for a probe into the decision to pay the personal fine on behalf of Nicolas Sarkozy.

An exchange of notes published by right wing newspaper Le Figaro in November shows that lawyers for the finance ministry saw no illegality in allowing the UMP to clear Sarkozy’s personal fine.

In December, Sarkozy himself was elected leader of the UMP, ending a two and half year absence from French politics following his defeat by François Hollande in 2012.

Sarkozy himself then paid the 363.615 euro to the UMP party treasurer in an attempt to bring the matter to a close.
 

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