And we thought George Osborne was bad!
Our Chancellor has got it in the neck over the past few years. But perhaps we should be grateful, because compared with Jérôme Cahuzac – until very recently France’s budget minister – he’s a diamond. Cahuzac, who made a fortune as a cosmetic surgeon, has admitted to holding a secret offshore account for two decades, and still has £510,000 squirrelled away in Singapore. The socialist politician is now being formally investigated for tax fraud, and could face up to three years in jail.
How was he found out?
The “affaire Cahuzac” began in December, when the website Mediapart posted a recording of Cazuhac saying he had an undisclosed account at a Swiss bank. It was claimed he had travelled to Geneva to close the account, transferring the money to Singapore. He derided the accusations as defamatory, and lied time and time again to the President, to Parliament and to the public. He was still proclaiming his innocence last month when President François Hollande demanded his resignation. Now he claims he is “devastated by remorse”.
He’s just sorry he got caught.
It’s all incredibly embarrassing. He made himself one of France’s most respected experts on public finances, and a credible figure in the Socialist government despite being a millionaire doctor. Now he stinks of hypocrisy. In 2011, he called for the taxation of wealthy, French expatriates and led a vociferous crusade against tax evasion.
What does this mean for Hollande?
It’s a devastating blow. He was elected on the promise of an “irreproachable Republic” after the scandals of the Chirac and Sarkozy years, and he’s hoping to revive his country’s moribund economy with higher taxes and spending cuts. This “outrage”, as he himself described it, couldn’t have come at a worse time.