Skip to main content

French president slams former minister over hidden bank account

By Laura Smith-Spark and Saskya Vandoorne, CNN
April 3, 2013 -- Updated 1350 GMT (2150 HKT)
French former Budget minister Jerome Cahuzac arrives at the financial pole in Paris, on April 2, 2013.
French former Budget minister Jerome Cahuzac arrives at the financial pole in Paris, on April 2, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Francois Hollande says he is "stupefied and angry" about Jerome Cahuzac's confession
  • Cahuzac admitted having an undeclared Swiss bank account after months of denials
  • The former budget minister is being investigated for suspected tax evasion
  • "Cahuzac did not benefit from any protection," Hollande states

(CNN) -- French President Francois Hollande voiced anger Wednesday over the confession by his former budget minister that he had a secret Swiss bank account, and affirmed that the man had not been shielded from justice.

Jerome Cahuzac resigned as minister in March, two months after prosecutors launched a preliminary investigation into suspected tax evasion.

It was not until a meeting with the investigating judges on Tuesday that he finally confessed he held the undeclared Swiss bank account, a statement on his blog said.

Hollande said Cahuzac had made an "unforgivable mistake" that was an insult to the country.

"Yesterday I was both stupefied and angry when I was informed of Jerome Cahuzac's confession to the judges," the president said.

Biden talks diplomacy with Hollande

"He misled the highest authorities of the country: the head of state, the government, the parliament, and through it the French people as a whole."

Hollande said the full truth will be established.

"The judicial system will play its role to the end and with complete independence," he said. "I hereby affirm that Jerome Cahuzac did not benefit from any protection apart from that of the presumption of innocence. And he left the government at my request from the moment a judicial inquiry started."

Hollande vowed that steps will be taken to bolster the independence of the judiciary, to help it "fight mercilessly" against conflicts of interest. He also promised tougher penalties for any elected officials found guilty of fraud or corruption.

The claims against Cahuzac, which he repeatedly denied, first came to light in a report by French investigative news website Mediapart in December.

The website obtained a recording of a conversation in which Cahuzac supposedly told one of his aides that it worried him to have an account in Switzerland, as UBS was not the most discreet bank.

'Spiral of lies'

The scandal dominated the headlines of French newspapers Wednesday.

Newspaper La Liberation plastered one word, "Indigne," or "Unworthy," across its front page, below a close-up image of Cahuzac.

It asks whether after "months of lies," his confession could now trigger a political crisis.

The scandal is particularly embarrassing for the Hollande government because it has vowed to crack down on tax evasion through foreign bank accounts.

In his statement, Cahuzac apologized to Hollande, the government and the French people "for the damage I have caused."

"I was caught in a spiral of lies and I took the wrong path. I am devastated by remorse," he wrote. "To think I could avoid facing a past that I wanted to consider as resolved was an unspeakable mistake."

Cahuzac said he had met with the two investigating judges Tuesday to come clean and will now "face reality."

He had held the bank account for about 20 years but had not paid into it for about 12 years, the ex-minister wrote.

He said he had given instructions for the total sum held in the Swiss account -- about 600,000 euros ($770,500) -- to be transferred to his bank account in Paris.

Hollande appointed Bernard Cazeneuve to serve in Cahuzac's place following his resignation last month.

READ MORE: French budget minister resigns

READ MORE: France's Hollande wants 75% tax on rich

READ MORE: Opinion: Why Hollande must show clearer leadership

CNN's Charles Pellegrin contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT