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CRIME

Nicolas Sarkozy’s ex-chief of staff jailed over polling fraud

The former chief of staff of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was handed a new jail sentence Friday, adding to a long list of convictions stemming from the right-winger's 2007-2012 term in office.

Claude Gueant trial in France
Former Interior Minister Claude Gueant arrives for his trial in the case. Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

Claude Guéant, considered one of Sarkozy’s closest confidants, went on trial in October along with four other aides and allies over accusations they misused public money while ordering public opinion polls worth a combined €7.5 million.

Guéant, who is already in jail over a separate offence, was handed a one-year prison sentence by a court in Paris on Friday, with a requirement to serve a minimum of eight months.

Writer and one-time Sarkozy advisor Patrick Buisson was handed a two-year suspended sentence and a €150,000 fine, while former cabinet director Emmanuelle Mignon was given a six-month suspended sentence.

Former pollster and consultant Pierre Giacometti was also convicted and handed a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of €70,000.

They were accused of ordering polls for Sarkozy in secret and without competition, breaking French laws on public financing that require transparency and competitive bidding.

Former Sarkozy aide Julien Vaulpré was the only one of the five accused to be cleared.

Sarkozy was not targeted directly and had refused to testify as a witness until compelled to do so by a judge.

In September last year, a separate court handed Sarkozy a one-year prison sentence for illegal financing of his 2012 re-election bid, seven months after he received a jail term for corruption.

The 66-year-old, who is appealing both of those convictions, has also been charged over suspicions he received millions of euros for his 2007 election campaign from the late Libyan dictator Muammar Kadhafi.

Guéant, 77, was jailed in December after he was found to have failed to pay a fine and damages to the state relating to a previous sentence, handed down in 2017, for operating a suspected slush fund.

He immediately announced an appeal against Friday’s sentence.

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POLICE

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window ‘may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack’

An 89-year-old man who was pushed out of his 17th-storey window by a neighbour may have been killed because he was Jewish, a prosecutor said on Friday, after several shocking anti-Semitic murders in France in recent years.

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window 'may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack'

The victim’s body was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, southeast France, on May 17th and the 51-year-old neighbour was arrested. But investigators did not initially charge him with a racist crime.

Last Sunday, the BNVCA anti-Semitism watchdog group said it would seek to be a plaintiff in the case, citing its similarity with the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window in a case that sparked national outcry.

“After social media postings were provided to us, the prosector’s office has asked judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of an act committed because of the victim’s ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” Lyon prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.

He did not provide examples of the posts, but Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer and commentator for CNews television, said on Wednesday on Twitter that the suspect had called out Goldnabel in messages, including one that told him to “remember your origins.”

“It’s no longer a question of telling us it’s the act of a mentally disturbed person. The truth of anti-Semitism must no longer be hidden,” Goldnadel wrote.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The murder of Halimi drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of drugs and not criminally responsible.

That prompted President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed in an attack by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.

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