Nicolas Sarkozy has been sentenced by a French court to three years in jail, two of them suspended, for corruption.
The former French president was convicted of trying to bribe a judge in 2014 – after he had left office – by suggesting he could secure a prestigious job for him in return for information about a separate case.
Nicolas Sarkozy is the first former French president to get a custodial sentence.
His lawyer says he will appeal.
The 66-year-old conservative politician will remain free during that process which could take years.
In the ruling, Judge Christine Mée said Nicolas Sarkozy “knew what [he] was doing was wrong”, adding that his actions and those of his lawyer had given the public “a very bad image of justice”.
The crimes were specified as influence-peddling and violation of professional secrecy.
It is a legal landmark for post-war France. The only precedent was the trial of Nicolas Sarkozy’s predecessor Jacques Chirac, who got a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for having arranged bogus jobs at Paris City Hall for allies when he was Paris mayor. Chirac died in 2019.
If Nicolas Sarkozy’s appeal is unsuccessful, he could serve a year at home with an electronic tag, rather than go to prison.
The former president’s wife, supermodel and singer Carla Bruni, reacted by describing the case as “senseless persecution”, adding that “the fight continued, and truth would come out”.
Nicolas Sarkozy served one five-year term as president from 2007. He adopted tough anti-immigration policies and sought to reform France’s economy during a presidency overshadowed by the global financial crisis.
Critics nicknamed him “bling-bling”, seeing his leadership style as too brash, celebrity-driven and hyperactive for a role steeped in tradition and grandeur.
Nicolas Sarkozy’s celebrity image was reinforced by his marriage to Carla Bruni in 2008. In 2012, he lost his re-election bid to Socialist François Hollande.
Since then he has been targeted by several criminal investigations.
In 2017, Nicolas Sarkozy tried to make a political comeback, but failed as his centre-right Les Républicains party chose another presidential candidate instead.
He was on trial with two co-defendants, his lawyer Thierry Herzog and Gilbert Azibert, a senior judge.
The case centered on phone conversations between Nicolas Sarkozy and Thierry Herzog that were taped by police in 2014.
Investigators were looking into claims that the former president had accepted illicit payments from the L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.
The prosecution convinced the court that Nicolas Sarkozy and Thierry Herzog had sought to bribe Gilbert Azibert with a prestigious job in Monaco in return for information about that investigation.
French media reported that Nicolas Sarkozy was heard telling Thierry Herzog: “I’ll get him promoted, I’ll help him.”
The phone line police tapped was a secret number set up in a fictional name, Paul Bismuth, through which Nicolas Sarkozy communicated with his lawyer.
On March 1, Thierry Herzog and Gilbert Azibert were also sentenced to three years in jail, two of them suspended.