French former interior minister begins jail time for misuse of public funds

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Claude Guéant, Nicholas Sarkozy's former chief of staff, began a nine-month jail sentence on Monday over embezzlement of state funds between 2002-2004.

Guéant, 76, was incarcerated in the Prison de la Santé in Paris on Monday, his lawyer confirmed.

It relates to a conviction in January 2017.

Guéant was handed a two-year jail term, with one year suspended, after he was found guilty of taking money out of special police funds and using it to give away cash bonuses to ministerial staff members, including himself.

He was also fined €75,000.

Claude Guéant, who also served as interior minister from 2011 to 2012 under Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency, appealed the sentence, but his appeal was rejected in 2019 and he had been serving his sentence on parole.

Failure to pay

On 9th November this year, the Paris Court of Appeal revoked part of his suspended sentence and conditional release, judging the former minister had failed to make the necessary payments to reimburse his fine.

The court found Guéant could have "paid more" and "earlier".

"He pays what he can pay, which is €3,000 a month, he has no hidden money so he can't pay more," his lawyer Philippe Bouchez El-Ghozi argued.

El-Ghozi said he intended to refer the matter to the judge in charge of applying sentences to obtain an adjustment, underlining his client's "worrying" state of health.

Secret fund

Guéant was found guilty in 2017 of running a secret fund worth €210,000 while he was chief of staff to then-interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

The police chief at the time, Michel Gaudin, handed him €10,000 in cash every month from a police expenses budget. Guéant kept half for himself and paid out the rest in bonuses to three members of staff.

Guéant has also been found guilty of money laundering and tax fraud over the sale of paintings to a Malaysian lawyer.

He is under investigation for suspected involvement in the potentially illicit financing of Sarkozy's 2007 presidential campaign linked to Libya.

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