France: Sarkozy’s UMP Party Entangled in Corruption Scandal
France’s main opposition party, the center-right ‘Union for a Popular Movement’ (UNP), has come under fire for alleged illegal funding totaling nearly $US 15 million during former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2012 presidential campaign, reports Euronews.
The election funding scandal could dash any hopes for Sarkozy, who is eligible to run again. Sarkozy was President of France from 2007-2012, but was not elected to a second term, losing to François Hollande of the Socialist Party.
Newly elected Member of the European Parliament and UNP member Jerome Lavrilleux admitted that there were irregularities in the funding of Sarkozy’s 2012 campaign, and that some overcharges were made to hide the actual cost of the campaign. UNP’s party head Jean-Francois Copé will officially step down on June 15, reports Euractiv.
“There was no wrongdoing; there was a terrible spiral, a train going at high speed and people who should have pulled the emergency alarm and didn’t, and I was one of them,” said Larilleux.
France24 reports that the UNP coerced the Bygmalion Communications Agency to send fake invoices to conceal over-spending for Sarkozy’s 2012 presidential election, said Patrick Maisonneuve, a lawyer for Bygmalion.
He charged UNP with “financial blackmail” and said that UNP officials told the staff of Bygmalion that they would not get paid if they refused to label invoices for ‘party conventions’, but which were actually used for Sarkozy’s presidential election campaign, said France24.
According to Euractiv, the scandal could also tarnish the image of UNP and casts uncertainty on the political future of Jerome Lavrilleux, who was the vice-director of Sarkozy’s presidential campaign.
Lavrilleux claimed that neither Sarkozy nor Copé had any knowledge of the funding fraud and absolved them of any guilt. However, Lavrilleux now has to confront the many questions surrounding the corruption scandal.
Elected to the European Parliament on May 25, Lavrilleux will officially become a member on July 1. Starting from that date, he will have parliamentary immunity. However, Lavrilleux said that he would not use that immunity. He did not say whether he would resign from his new MEP post, reports Euractiv.