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Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s former president, is to stand trial over allegations of illegally financing his failed 2012 re-election bid, according to judicial sources in Paris. The prosecution alleges that the former president exceeded a spending limit of €22.5m (£19.5m) by using false billing from a public relations firm called Bygmalion. Mr Sarkozy, who has denied all wrongdoing, was defeated in the centre-right Republicans primary late last year by his former prime minister, François Fillon, but remains a powerful figure in the party. 

Mr Sarkozy’s travails added to the woes of the centre-right party just months before the country’s presidential election. Mr Fillon is facing his own funding scandal that has led calls for him to stand down. He issued an apology for having employed family members when he was a member of parliament but said he had acted legally and vowed to remain in the race for the presidency. (FT, Guardian, Politico)

Nicolas Sarkozy, who has denied all wrongdoing, remains a powerful figure in France's Republican party © Reuters

In the news

Israel legalises settlements The Knesset has voted for a bill allowing the expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land, a move critics warned would mark the first step towards annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, and could leave Israelis open to future war crimes charges. There is a strong chance, however, that the country’s high court will nullify the legislation. (FT, NYT)

Bercow blocks Trump The speaker of the British House of Commons, John Bercow, said he was “strongly opposed” to Donald Trump from addressing the chamber during his forthcoming UK state visit because of his “racism and sexism”. Many politicians have applauded his statement but members of the ruling Conservative party say the speaker should remain impartial in such discussions. (FT)

IMF split over Greece A stand-off with European authorities over the terms and future of Greece’s bailout has led to a rare public split on the International Monetary Fund’s board, amid growing questions over the institution’s participation. Greece is expected to need a new tranche of aid under the current €86bn ($92bn) programme by the third quarter of this year, and the head of Greece’s bailout fund said last week that a further slice of aid could only be granted once the IMF decided to formally join the programme. (FT, Reuters)

A frayed Greek flag flies among antennas above a building in central Athens © Reuters

Mass executions in Syria The Syrian government has hanged up to 13,000 inmates at the Saydnaya military prison and caused the deaths of thousands of others through disease, malnutrition and dehydration, according to Amnesty International. The human rights group’s findings cover the period of 2011-15. Since then it has not had access to verifiable information from inside the facility, but says there is no reason to suggest the hangings have stopped. (FT, Guardian)

China forex down China’s foreign exchange reserves unexpectedly fell below the closely watched $3tn level in January for the first time in nearly six years, even as authorities tried to curb outflows by tightening capital controls. There are concerns that the speed at which the country is depleting its ammunition could affect its ability to defend the currency and staunch capital outflows. (NAR)

It’s a big day for

The EU securitisation market Negotiations between MEPs and national officials resume on the Brussels project to “turbo-charge” the sector. It risks becoming a casualty of the UK’s Brexit vote amid political clashes over how far financial centres from outside the bloc should be allowed to take part. (FT)

Trump’s immigration order President Donald Trump’s legal battle over a controversial travel ban will move to an appeals court hearing in San Francisco. (FT)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s WeekAhead.

Food for thought

UniCredit’s €13bn share sale must be successful The rights issue by Italy’s largest lender has acquired a talismanic quality among the country’s battered banks. Italy’s financial future potentially rests on it. (FT)

The world’s most corrupt election After 25 years without a central government, Somalia will this week hold presidential elections. But the vote, which has been described as a “milestone” by the UN, is one of the most fraudulent political events the country has ever seen. Several analysts say the militant group al-Shabaab has not even bothered to disrupt the poll because it makes the terrorists look upstanding by comparison. (NYT)

The babel fish is real Meet Pilot, a $299 earbud that will translate foreign languages as they are being spoken. It is less cool and more cumbersome than the fictitious alien fish in Douglas Adams’ novel but it promises to boldly go where no gadget has gone before. (FT)

President Steve Bannon Is the Trump adviser who ran a website that catered to white supremacists really the second-most powerful man in the world? (Time)

Russia’s dark arts The arrest of a Russian hacker reveals the murky world of shadowy handlers and stolen data that characterise the connections between Russian intelligence and the hacker underworld. (FT)

Heading for war The will and capacity of the US and other western democracies to maintain the current world order is coming up against the expansionist ambitions of China and Russia. If their power is not checked, the world order will be on an inexorable path to collapse. The cost in lost lives, freedoms and wealth will be staggering, according to Robert Kagan. (Foreign Policy)

Video of the day

Tech v Trump Airbnb, Uber, Twitter, Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft are among the technology companies that submitted an amicus brief against Mr Trump’s immigration ban. (FT)

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