François Hollande rocked as minister confesses to lying over tax evasion

Former Budget Minister admits he had €600,000 in an illegal offshore bank account

Paris

In a bombshell confession, the former French Budget Minister, Jerome Cahuzac, has admitted that he had lied repeatedly to the President, parliament and public and had cheated on his taxes for 20 years.

Mr Cahuzac's admission he had €600,000 in an illegal offshore bank account dealt a devastating blow to a Socialist president and government already facing public rage over tax rises, cuts and high unemployment.

President François Hollande said tonight that Mr Cahuzac had committed an "unpardonable moral fault" by lying for four months to the Elysée Palace and the National Assembly. However, in a further, deep embarrassment for the President, the investigative newspaper, Le Canard Enchainé will report today that Mr Hollande saw evidence pointing to Mr Cahuzac's possible guilt as long ago as December.

Mr Cahuzac, 60, previously a highly paid plastic surgeon, was fired by the Elysée last month from his high-profile job as Budget Minister – in effect the minister responsible for spending cuts and tax enforcement. This followed a declaration by the state prosecution service that the voice in a recorded telephone conversation from 2000, admitting ownership of an illegal, Swiss account, appeared to be the minister.

At the time, Mr Cahuzac continued to proclaim his innocence. After months of denials, he made a double confession: publicly in his blog and privately, to two magistrates.

"I was caught up in spiral of lies," he wrote. "I fought a torturous internal battle to try to resolve the conflict between my duty to tell the truth and my anxiety to fulfil the mission with which I had been entrusted."

The admission bears some resemblance to the confession, after years of denials, by the former British environment minister, Chris Huhne, that he had conspired with his wife Vicky Pryce to avoid speeding penalty points. Several French newspapers have suggested that media allegations about Mr Cahuzac's off-shore account, may be linked to a contested divorce with his wife, Patricia Cahuzac.

Mr Cahuzac, admitted that he had held illegal accounts abroad – first in Switzerland and then in Singapore – for 20 years. He said that he had ordered that €600,000 remaining on his Singapore account to be transferred to France.

The French investigative website, Mediapart, which has also led the way in allegations of wrongdoing against ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, first revealed the existence of Mr Cahuzac's Swiss account last December.

Mediapart placed online a recorded telephone conversation from the year 2000 in which a politician discussed his embarrassment at having an account with UBS in Switzerland. Mr Cahuzac denied to President Hollande and to the Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, that the voice was his. However, Le Canard Enchainé will report today that President Hollande was told by the interior ministry in December that the voice on the tape was "close to" that of Mr Cahuzac.

The former minister also faces investigation over the source of the funds paid into the Swiss and Singapore accounts. His lawyers said that the money came from his lucrative and successful practice as one of Europe's leading specialists in hair transplants.

Magistrates are, however, investigating allegations that some or all of the money came from under-the-counter payments by pharmaceutical companies to promote their products.

The shockwaves from Mr Cahuzac's initial dismissal last month were rapidly overwhelmed by news that ex-President Sarkozy had been formally accused of abusing the mental weakness of a billionaires to fund his 2007 campaign.

Politicians on the moderate left said that Mr Cahuzac's repeated lies had compounded a "crisis for democracy in France".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: FP&A Analyst -Home Entertainment

£250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: (Rolling) 3 month contractA global en...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Account Manager - OTE £80,000+

£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - Kent - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - ne...

Recruitment Genius: Production Team Leader / Chargehand

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Chargehand to join ...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project