French foreign minister denies tax-evasion ‘rumour’
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A leading French daily has reported that Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is being investigated by the media for allegedly holding a secret Swiss bank account. Fabius vehemently denies the allegations.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius denied on Sunday a rumour that he may have a secret bank account in Switzerland. The allegation comes less than a week after former budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac admitted he lied about holding a secret Swiss bank account, in a tax-evasion scandal that has rocked the Socialist government of President François Hollande.
There is no “substance or foundation” to the news report, Fabius said in a statement to the press, adding he would take legal action to “stop the diffusion of this false and slanderous information”.
On Monday, left-leaning daily Libération reported that the investigative news website Médiapart – which broke the Cahuzac affair – was looking into whether Fabius was also stashing away euros in “one or several” bank accounts across the border. It stated that Hollande’s cabinet is in a state of panic ahead of potentially devastating new revelations.
“More than an affair, it’s a potential political bomb. Everyone thinks the same thing: if Fabius really does have a Swiss bank account, the entire government would fall. Immediately,” the newspaper wrote in its Monday edition that headlined, “The nightmare continues”.
However, Libération did not publish any information or document proving that one of France’s top government minister’s had an illegal bank account.
Left reeling from the Cahuzac affair, France's government attempted to take back the initiative Sunday by stating that it was looking into tightening Europe-wide measures against tax evasion.
Médiapart hits back
Médiapart chastised the newspaper Libération for publishing the allegations. Contacted by Libération, Médiapart staff journalist Fabrice Arfi said the only news it stood by was “what is published on our site”.
In a more challenging tone, Médiapart president Edwy Plenel took issue with the daily’s reporting. “Libération has lost its mind: It is transforming a rumour into news by taking credit for information Médiapart has not published,” he tweeted on Sunday.
Médiapart has won major kudos in France for exposing the Cahuzac scandal. The former minister had initially vehemently denied the site’s tax-dodging allegation after they first brought the allegations to light in December. Oddly, Cahuzac at one point mused with journalists that the affair would either destroy him or the news group.
Over the weekend Swiss media reported that Cahuzac tried to hide 15 million euros in the country, much more than the 600,000 euros that Médiapart originally reported. They also claimed Cahuzac provided false documents to a Swiss bank.
The former budget minister could face a five-year jail term and a 375,000-euro fine for money laundering and tax-evasion.