The verdict followed the 66-year-old politician appearing in the dock in a criminal court at the Paris Tribunal during a three-week trial for corruption and “influence peddling”. Sarkozy became the first president of France in recent history to be sentenced to actual cell time, rather than a suspended sentence. But he is set to spend his prison time at home with an electronic tag.
Wearing a dark suit and tie with a white shirt, Sarkozy bowed his head but otherwise remained motionless as the verdict was read out.
He was accused of trying to glean confidential information from a judge by using a so-called “burner” mobile phone and false name of Paul Bismuth.
Sarkozy, who is set to appeal, had risked up to a decade in prison and a fine approaching the equivalent of £1million.
Also found guilty were his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, 65, and Gilbert Azibert, the 73-year-old retired judge who was said to have been bribed.
All received the same punishment with two years suspended. French prosecutors accused the three of working out a corruption pact to advance their careers. Sarkozy, who led France for a single five-year term up to 2012, told the court he “never committed the slightest act of corruption” and vowed to go “all the way” to clear his name.
His third wife Carla Bruni, the pop singer and model, was among those in court during the trial.
The 53-year-old former first lady described the charges as “a scandal” and “disgusting lies” and that the prosecution had “no clue of any type, with no reason, with no proof”.
The Paris home Sarkozy shares with Ms Bruni was raided by fraud squad officers within two days of him losing his presidential immunity from prosecution in 2012. He has since been indicted on numerous allegations, including that he accepted millions in illegal funding from the late Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi.
Yesterday’s verdict related to the so-called “wiretapping affair”, involving investigators listening into phones belonging to Sarkozy and his lawyer.
Prosecutors said Sarkozy aimed to obtain information from judge Azibert, including by getting him a prestigious job in the Mediterranean tax haven of Monaco.
Azibert did not take up the post, but under French law prosecutors do not have to prove anybody benefited from a corrupt deal for a conviction.
Defence barristers argued that the recorded conversations between Sarkozy and Herzog represented violation of lawyer-client confidentiality.
The former French leader returns to court on March 17 to face more charges – he is accused of illegal financing in the so-called Bygmalion Affair. This was the PR firm which handled Sarkozy’s appearances in his failed 2012 re-election campaign.
The company is said to have used a vast system of false accounting to conceal an alleged explosion of undercover funding.
The last French head of state to receive a prison sentence and actually go to jail was Marshall Philippe Petain, the wartime Nazi collaborator.
While in 2011, the late Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy’s one-time political mentor and predecessor as president, was convicted of embezzlement and misusing public funds while mayor of Paris. He was given a two-year suspended prison sentence.