French prosecutors are to open a preliminary investigation into allegations that Jérôme Cahuzac, budget minister in François Hollande’s Socialist government who heads its campaign against tax evasion, had an undeclared Swiss bank account
Mr Cahuzac, a key minister at the centre of the government’s drive to bring down the country’s big public debt, has vehemently denied the allegations since they were first made late last year by Mediapart, an investigative news website.
The case is potentially destabilising for the government as Mr Cahuzac, a wealthy surgeon before he entered politics, has driven its controversial budget measures, including €30bn in tax increases and spending curbs for this year, through parliament. He is in charge of preparing further tough budgets for the coming years.
To date Mr Hollande has stood firmly behind Mr Cahuzac, who has also benefited from support against the allegations from within the opposition right-of-centre UMP party. Jean-Marc Ayrault, the prime minister, repeated his backing for Mr Cahuzac on Tuesday evening.
Mr Cahuzac repeated his denial, saying he welcomed the investigation as it would “show his complete innocence from the absurd allegations that he has been subjected to”.
Mediapart reported that Mr Cahuzac had an account at UBS in Switzerland until 2010, claiming he then moved the account to Singapore. It later published an audio tape dating from 2000 in which Mr Cahuzac is allegedly heard referring to the account in a telephone conversation.
Mr Cahuzac denies the voice is his. He is suing Mediapart for defamation and has requested UBS to testify that he has never held an account at the bank. He says he has never held any foreign bank account.
The prosecutor’s office said the sensitivity of the issue demanded an inquiry. “The Paris prosecutor has as a result decided to open a preliminary investigation for tax fraud,” it said in a statement.
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