Wednesday

22nd May 2019

French ministers in transparency move after tax scandal

  • Former budget minister Cahuzac lied about his Swiss bank accounts (Photo: Parti socialiste/Mathieu Delmestre)

All members of France's Socialist government are to publish their financial assets within days as President Francois Hollande struggles to overcome a tax fraud scandal involving his former budget minister.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Monday (8 April) "wealth declarations of all the members of government will be made public by 15 April" as part of a set of new financial transparency measures.

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A cabinet meeting on Wednesday is due to approve the measures, with finance minister Pierre Moscovici cancelling a meeting with his American counterpart Jacob Lew on Tuesday in order to devote time to the transparency package and to questions in parliament.

Ayrault said the aim of the new measures is to "more severely punish breaches of the financial law and ethics and integrity rules, and to strengthen the fight against tax fraud and tax havens."

The measures come after it emerged former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac had lied about having Swiss bank accounts and that Hollande's own campaign manager was involved in offshore businesses

The revelations were a major political embarrassment to Hollande who came into office last year on a promise to run a clean government. His popularity has plummeted to a record low of 22 percent.

The opposition has accused Hollande of covering up the scandal or being too naive in believing Cahuzac's denials.

Meanwhile, the bad news keeps on coming.

Swiss RTS television channel on Sunday reported that Cahuzac sought to transfer €15 million from one bank account to another, far more than the €600,000 he admitted to have placed in an undeclared foreign account.

Cahuzac's lawyers denied the report.

Foreign minister Laurent Fabius has also denied a newspaper story that he may have a Swiss account and said he would sue for "false and slanderous information."

In a survey published Sunday in Journal du Dimanche, three in five respondents said they were in favour of a government reshuffle over the scandal.

Hollande so far has held firm on reshuffling calls. But one of his ministers admitted that "we will probably have to have a reshuffle, but not right away," Reuters reports.

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