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France

Disgraced ex-minister not ‘protected’, says Hollande

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-04-04

Reacting to France’s former budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac’s admission that he had a secret offshore account, French President François Hollande said his government had not protected Cahuzac (pictured) and promised a full investigation.

A day after France’s former budget minister and tax tsar admitted having a secret Swiss bank account, French President François Hollande said Jérôme Cahuzac had not received any protection by his government and promised a full investigation into the case.

In a brief televised address on Wednesday, Hollande promised to ban convicted fraudsters from holding public office.

"I affirm that Jérôme Cahuzac has not received any protection other than the presumption of innocence,” said Hollande, before adding, “The failings of one man must make us even more demanding and uncompromising when it comes to the exemplary conduct required of public officials.”

The French president also promised a new law on the "publication and control" of ministers' wealth.

Cahuzac resigned as budget minister on March 19 over allegations that he had an offshore bank account. But at the time of his resignation, the man better known in France as “Monsieur Rigeur” – or Mr. Tough – for his crackdown on excessive government spending and tax evasion, denied the allegations.

In a shock admission on Tuesday, Cahuzac confessed that he hid 600,000 euros in a UBS account in Switzerland for more than two decades.

Vehement denials and libel suits

The admission by the 60-year-old former tax tsar followed months of him denying tax-evasion reports, which emerged late last year on the French investigative site, Mediapart.

Since the story broke on the French-language site, Cahuzac had spent the past four months repeatedly and vehemently denying the reports on the airwaves, in parliament and on his blog. He filed two libel lawsuits against Mediapart while continuing to lead Hollande’s crackdown against tax evasion.

French newspapers express shock at ex-minister's confession

In a country where even the most cherished celebrities - such as Gerard Depardieu - are lambasted for trying to evade a 75 percent “supertax” on the rich, Cahuzac’s admission has shocked the nation, with the French press blasting the former tax tsar for his months of deception.

“Indigne” (Unworthy), screamed the banner headline of the left-wing Libération, with a sub-head: “After months of lies, Jérôme Cahuzac admitted yesterday to keeping a foreign bank account and is being formally investigated. The making of a political crisis.”

“Cahuzac had already come out in the previous weeks saying these allegations were simply crazy, he was tweeting that he would sue anybody who made these claims - and then to see him make this about-turn was shocking,” said FRANCE 24’s James Creedon.

Reacting to the news Tuesday, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault issued a statement expressing his “sadness and astonishment” at Cahuzac’s admission. “Any senior politician is expected, more than any other citizen, to respect the law,” he said. “Lies are unacceptable in a democracy.”

 

Date created : 2013-04-03

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