A French court has convicted veteran right-wing political kingmaker Patrick Balkany and his wife for hiding millions of euros worth of assets from the French tax authorities, sentencing them both to jail terms.
Balkany, a friend of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, has served as the mayor of Levallois-Perret, a wealthy suburb of Paris, since 1983, with his wife Isabelle his deputy.
The couple were convicted of hiding two luxury residences as well as other assets, avoiding paying some 4 million euros in taxes.
The Paris tribunal sentenced the 71-year-old to 4 years jail and ordered his immediate arrest.
His wife, Isabelle, was slapped with a three-year sentence but not immediately taken into custody, which is usually the case for short jail terms.
Both were also banned from holding public office for 10 years, though the Levallois-Perret council announced that Ms Balkany would remain as interim mayor in the short term.
Eric Dupond-Moretti, Patrick Balkany’s lawyer called the immediate arrest warrant a “totally useless humiliation” and said he would appeal.
The French public has followed this trial with interest as the well-connected, well-heeled Balkanys were considered political power players in France.
The Balkanys had been under investigation since 2013 after a former political associate told judges that he had put millions of euros into a Swiss bank account under the control of Patrick Balkany.
This is not the first time they have been convicted, either. In 1996, they were given suspended prison sentences for using municipal employees for their own personal use, including using one as a driver.
The pair are awaiting a second verdict next month for a separate trial where they were charged with corruption and money laundering.