Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign staff concealed €17m of illegal overspending with 'fake bills'

Former President tries to turn scandal to his advantage, but opponents say it is inconceivable he was not aware

paris

Senior aides to former President Nicolas Sarkozy organised a system of double book-keeping to conceal €17m (£13.6m) of illegal overspending on his failed 2012 re-election campaign, it has been alleged.

Documents seized by fraud squad investigators and comments by a former campaign official placed two of the former President’s closest associates at the heart of the “fake bills” scandal which threatens to tear apart France’s main opposition party.

There is no evidence that Mr Sarkozy was aware that gross overspending by his campaign team was allegedly being covered up by fake bills for non-existent events financed by his centre-right party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP). 

Nonetheless, the scandal threatens to derail the former President’s hopes of ending his self-imposed retirement from politics and coming back as party leader and prospective presidential candidate this autumn.

Anti-Sarkozy politicians within UMP maintain that it is implausible he did not know that his 2012 campaign was  overspending the legal limit by such a wide margin. Either way, they suggest, he should carry the can politically for his campaign’s attempts to evade the law. 

Any presidential candidate who reaches the two-candidate second round is allowed to spend a maximum of €22.5m on the whole of his or her campaign.

According to documents leaked this week to the news website Mediapart, the Sarkozy campaign spent at least €39.5m and hid the surplus by generating fake bills for fictitious party conferences and seminars.

Mr Sarkozy’s supporters challenge this version of events. Since the scandal first broke three weeks ago, they have suggested that the money might simply have been embezzled by unnamed UMP officials.

Mr Sarkozy has even tried to use the affair to accelerate his plans for a political comeback. Although he has said nothing publicly himself, his supporters have let it be known that only Mr Sarkozy is now capable of cleansing and uniting the shaken UMP and mounting a successful challenge for the presidency in 2017.

The Sarkozy line of attack – described by one UMP politician as a “breathtakingly arrogant piece of political ju-jitsu” – has been destabilised by two events in the past two days.

Leaks to the press suggest that documents seized by fraud squad officers show that the decision to keep two sets of books was approved by two senior officials close to Mr Sarkozy. This version of events was confirmed by Mr Sarkozy’s former deputy campaign manager, Jérôme Lavrilleux, under questioning by police on Tuesday and in an interview on Thursday with the newspaper Libération.

Mr Lavrilleux, who first revealed the scandal in a tearful television interview three weeks ago, pointed the finger at Guillaume Lambert, director of the Sarkozy 2012 campaign, and Eric Cesari, director general of the UMP (and known within the party as the “eye” of Mr Sarkozy). He said that both men were present at a meeting which decided to hide the illegal campaign spending “by putting in place a system of double book-keeping”.

Both men have denied all knowledge of any attempt to conceal the over-spending in this way.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Day In a Page

Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference