In Televised Address, French President Denies Covering For Disgraced Budget Minister
LE MONDE, FRANCE 24, JEROME-CAHUZAC.COM, LIBERATION, L'HUMANITE, LA VOIX DU NORD(France)
PARIS – French President Francois Hollande appeared in a brief televised address broadcast on Wednesday, after his former Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac admitted he was guilty of tax fraud.
In the pre-recorded broadcast, Hollande said Cahuzac had “fooled the highest authorities of the country: the president, the government, the Parliament and the French people,” reports Le Monde. “It is a shock, a serious breech of morals.”
Hollande insisted that his former Budget minister had “not received any protection other than the presumption of innocence,” adding that “The failings of one man must make us even more demanding and uncompromising when it comes to the exemplary conduct of required of elected officials.”
Hollande pledged three reforms, reports le Monde, including banning elected officials with a fraud or corruption conviction from holding public office; publishing the personal assets of all members of government and Parliament, and improving judicial independence.
On Tuesday, after four months of adamently denying wrongdoing, and facing a judicial investigation that had forced him to resign, Cahuzac finally confessed on his blog that he had hidden 600,000 euros in accounts in Switzerland and Singapore for more than two decades.
“I was caught in a spiral of lies and I did wrong,” he wrote in his blog. “I ask the president, the prime minister, my former colleagues in the government to forgive me for the damage I have caused them,” he wrote, saying he was “devastated by remorse.”
After his admission, he was charged with “laundering the proceeds of tax fraud,” reports France 24. Until he resigned two weeks ago, Cahuzac, 60, had been leading the government’s crusade against tax fraud and tax havens. If convicted, he faces five years in prison.
The scandal broke in December 2012, when French investigative website Mediapart published a report saying that Cahuzac had an undisclosed bank account at Swiss bank UBS. Cahuzac repeatedly denied the accusation, threatening legal action against Mediapart, and going on record in Parliament, to say he had never had bank accounts abroad.
After Cahuzac’s admission on Tuesday, the French media were quick to show their outrage:
Liberation’s front page reads: “Unworthy.”
In its editorial, the daily writes: “It’s more than a shame, it’s an ignominy. With his cover-ups and lies, Jerome Cahuzac did more than just tarnish his reputation. He has cast opprobrium on this actions, discredited the political discourse and raised doubts on the authority of the president."
For L’Humanité, “The political scandal is huge. The man who held France’s budget in his hands, the man who piloted the fiscal administration and led the fight against fraud was himself a cheat.”
La Voix du Nord wrote that “In the realm of big lies in front of the microphones and cameras, only Lance Armstrong comes close to Jerome Cahuzac.”
The front page of Le Monde: "The Cahuzac bomb shakes Hollande's presidency."
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A photo circulated widely on Twitter today, showing Cahuzac speaking at a podium that reads: "Fighting against tax fraud":
Cahuzac, la photo qui tue ! twitter.com/thomasherve14/…
— Thomas Hervé (@thomasherve14) April 3, 2013