PARIS — French comedian Dieudonne, a convicted anti-Semite whose shows the French government once tried to shut down, was sentenced to two years in jail for tax fraud and money laundering on Friday by a court in Paris.
The controversial performer, who has also been found guilty of condoning terrorism in the past, has a loyal following in France, particularly in low-income suburban areas of major cities.
The court in Paris handed him a 200,000 euro ($225,000) fine, as well as the two-year jail sentence, which he is unlikely to serve under arrangements that will allow him to do community service instead.
The trial related to over one million euros of undeclared earnings from the showman, whose full name is Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala.
Investigators found 657,000 euros at his home in cash, while he and accomplices sent 565,000 euros overseas, mainly to Cameroon where he has family roots.
Dieudonne, 53, once invited a Holocaust denier onto stage and rails against the “Zionist lobby” which he claims controls the world, though he claims his right to free speech has been infringed.
He has popularized a hand gesture known as the “quenelle”, which was criticized for resembling a Nazi salute.
In 2014, then Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls attempted to get regional authorities to shut down Dieudonne’s shows, arguing that they posed a threat to public safety.
The comedian managed to have some of the bans overturned.