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LIBERATION, LE PARISIEN, LES ECHOS (France)

Worldcrunch

PARIS - French President Francois Hollande's government faces its first confidence vote Wednesday over its handling of the country’s finances as a government heavyweight resigns over allegations of tax fraud.

The confidence vote was called by the opposition Union for a Popular Movement party (UMP). While it is unlikely to prevail because of Hollande’s majority in the National Assembly, it comes amid falling approval ratings for the French President.

Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac resigned on Tuesday night, after an investigation was launched into an alleged undeclared Swiss bank account.

Cahuzac, 60, handed in his resignation just three hours after an announcement that he would be investigated on charges of tax fraud and money laundering, Libération reports.

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Jerome Cahuzac - Photo: Cyclotron

According to the French daily newspaper Les Echos, the Budget Minister was a "key element" in Hollande’s government, and "one of its most trusted ministers."

Although he has denied any wrongdoing, Cahuzac asked to be removed from his post "out of respect" for the government and the judicial process , he is quoted as saying by Le Parisien.

Hollande commented on Cahuzac’s resignation: “I hail the decision that he took to hand in his resignation as a member of the government to better defend his honor.”

Last December, the French investigative news website Mediapart said it had a recording of a phone conversation in which the minister allegedly expressed concern about an account in the Swiss bank UBS, which was reportedly used to siphon funds to Singapore – accusations Cahuzac has always denied.

It is the first ministerial resignation French President Francois Hollande has received since taking office last May. Cahuzac will be replaced by Bernard Cazeneuve, 49, the current Minister for European Affairs.

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