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FRANCE: Sarkozy Back on Trial After Corruption Conviction

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, is once again going on trial on Wednesday over claims of illicit financing for his failed 2012 re-election bid, just two weeks after a landmark conviction for corruption.

On March 1, the 66-year-old became  France’ first president to be sentenced to prison when he was given a three-year term, two years of which were suspended, for corruption and influence peddling.

Although Sarkozy has denied any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of a vindictive judicial system with which he tangled while in power between 2007 and 2012, the case is however one of several others hanging over him since he left office.

In the trial opening Wednesday, which he is not expected to attend, the right-wing politician is accused of overspending on his failed 2012 re-election bid to the tune of 20 million euros ($24 million).

The money was spent on lavish US-style rallies in the final days of the race, as Sarkozy scrambled to fend off an unexpectedly strong challenge from his Socialist rival François Hollande.

Prosecutors say accountants had warned him that the campaign was set to blow the 22.5 million euro ($26.7 million) cap on spending between the first and second rounds of voting, but Sarkozy insisted on holding more events.

Investigators say his total spending on the second round came to nearly 43 million euros ($51 million).

The former president says he was unaware of the fraud, unlike some of the defendants he is not charged with fraud, but with the lesser offence of illegal campaign financing. He fought for years to avoid a trial.

He has also been charged over allegations he received millions of euros from the late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi for his 2007 election campaign.

And in January, prosecutors opened a probe into alleged influence-peddling involving his activities as a consultant in Russia.

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