At the time, the essential man of the Sarkozy presidency, now 77 years old, was a candidate in Hauts-de-Seine.
An election campaign must respect a spending limit. In this case, Mr. Guéant should not exceed the sum of nearly 67,000 euros in order in particular to be able to obtain reimbursement of his personal contribution of more than 30,000 euros.
For the prosecution, Mr. Guéant knowingly understated his accounting items and, ultimately, received a refund.
A four-page letter is at the heart of this investigation.
In this letter, sent on January 3, 2012, Pierre-Christophe Baguet, UMP mayor (now LR) of Boulogne-Billancourt and outgoing deputy of Hauts-de-Seine, announced that he would support Claude Guéant to succeed him in the National Assembly. He had attached the declaration of candidacy of the latter.
– Message personnel ? –
The prosecution accuses them of having sought to have this letter financed by the town of Boulogne-Billancourt.
“I am not guilty of anything,” said Mr. Guéant, graying hair, standing straight at the stand in his dark suit. “I knew that Mr. Baguet was going to write a letter” but “I did not know the content”, says the one who faces up to five years in prison and a fine of 375,000 euros.
“This letter is first of all a personal character”, also assured Mr. Baguet, who explained that he wanted to detail the reasons for his departure as a deputy in a “painful” family context.
Why did you attach the declaration of candidacy of Claude Guéant, on the fourth page? “Having an empty back cover is not done,” replies the mayor, white hair and round glasses.
“We could imagine many other things to fill this page, if it struck your eyes so much, if the reason was really only aesthetic,” notes the president of the chamber.
The trial must make it possible to establish the nature of this letter – action of the mayor or electoral character? -, its conditions of realization – Did Mr. Guéant give his agreement? – and its financing.
For Mr. Guéant, this letter had “no electoral character” requiring it to be included in his campaign accounts, because it was “the intervention of a third party”, to which Mr. Guéant ensures that he does not not have given “characterized agreement”.
– “No gift” –
The UMP then financed part of it. “Very quickly, I had the intuition that this case was likely to cause problems (…) and I did not want to start my campaign with a controversy”, justifies Mr. Guéant.
To anticipate any controversy, Mr. Baguet consulted a lawyer who recommended that the UMP pay, explains his side the mayor.
“Is it normal for the UMP to take on a letter that you say is personal?” Says prosecutor Nathalie Foy. “But why not! I gave so much to the UMP”, replies the mayor.
The prosecution suspects reduced funding to enter the nails of campaign expenses: of the approximately 12,800 euros of the total cost of the letter, only about 5,100 euros were paid by the UMP.
Mr. Guéant explains it as a calculation proportional to the content concerning him in this letter.
But for the prosecution, nearly 7,700 euros are missing, which would have been given illegally by a printer, himself would have been favored for obtaining contracts from former employees of the town hall of Boulogne-Billancourt, also judged in Nanterre.
“I didn’t give a gift”, defends this printing manager, but “I was fooled”.
By who ? His answer is vague. Not by Mr. Guéant and Mr. Baguet in any case, who “have always been very correct”, he says.
The requisitions are expected Wednesday morning.