France reeling from tax scandal

2013-04-03 16:55
Francois Hollande (Picture: AFP)

Francois Hollande (Picture: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - France's Socialist government was reeling from an explosive tax fraud scandal on Wednesday as critics questioned how much President Francois Hollande knew about a former budget minister's secret foreign bank account.

Jérôme Cahuzac - the minister responsible for cracking down on tax evasion until he resigned two weeks ago - was charged on Tuesday with "laundering the proceeds of tax fraud" after he admitted to having a foreign bank account containing some €600 000, following weeks of denials.

Hollande appeared on national television on Wednesday to address the scandal, vowing a new law within weeks on the "publication and control" of the wealth of ministers and parliamentarians.

Hollande said he knew nothing of the foreign account and that Cahuzac "did not benefit from any protection" from the government.

"He deceived the highest authorities in the country: the head of state, the head of the government, parliament, and through them all the French people," Hollande said.

The president had been quick to condemn Cahuzac's actions, but critics have pounced on the scandal, saying top officials must have been either lying to protect the ex-minister or naïve enough to believe him.

The head of the main opposition right-wing UMP party, Jean-Francois Cope, has demanded Hollande explain the scandal to the French public.

Cope said the president either "knew nothing, and that's extremely serious because it means he showed a certain amount of naïveté" or "he knew and that means he lied to the French people".

"Who can believe that Francois Hollande and [Prime Minister] Jean-Marc Ayrault were aware of nothing?" Cope asked on Europe 1 radio. "They must explain themselves more deeply before the French people."

Opposition lawmakers have called for a parliamentary probe into the scandal and for the resignation of Cahuzac's former boss, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici.

Calls for new elections

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, said the entire government should resign and new parliamentary elections held.

"I see no other solution," she said. "When we have this kind of situation of rupture, the people must be able to express themselves," she said.

"This abscess must be drained by new elections."

Hollande had promised a government of unimpeachable morals, and the scandal is likely to further damage the standing of the president, who is languishing in opinion polls less than a year into his five-year term.

Cahuzac announced his resignation on 19 March after prosecutors opened a probe into the account, first revealed by the investigative Mediapart news website in December.

He met with investigators on Tuesday and admitted to having had the foreign account for around 20 years.

His lawyer said the account, originally opened in Switzerland, had been transferred to Singapore and that the amount laundered was equivalent to about €30 000.

Swiss prosecutors said on Wednesday that Cahuzac had agreed to allow details of the Swiss account to be transferred to French investigators.

In a contrite statement on his website, Cahuzac said: "I was caught in a spiral of lies and lost my way. I am devastated by guilt."

Little-known before being named a minister, Cahuzac, 60, began his career as a cardiologist before switching to the more lucrative world of plastic surgery, in particular hair transplants.

Elected to the National Assembly in 1997, he headed its commission on public finances and was named budget minister when Hollande formed his first government following his victory over ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy last May.

If convicted, Cahuzac faces up to five years in prison and a potential fine of up to €375 000.

Read more on:    francois hollande  |  nicolas sarkozy  |  france

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.