Skip to main content

French president slams former minister over hidden bank account

By Laura Smith-Spark and Saskya Vandoorne, CNN
updated 9:50 AM EDT, Wed April 3, 2013
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
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
It was supposed to be a class trip to a resort island. Instead, the ferry capsized, turning the afternoon into a deadly nightmare.
updated 6:12 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
From giant zippers to buttock-shaped balloons, Jun Kitagawa's public art is whimsical, erotic and playful.
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Ukraine says it's forces have regained control of an airfield from Russian separatists. Nick Paton Walsh reports.
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Katrina Karkazis
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Sky gazers caught a glimpse of the "blood moon" crossing the Earth's shadow Tuesday in all its splendor.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
updated 12:24 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Oscar Pistorius didn't consciously pull the trigger the night he shot and killed his girlfriend, the sprinter testified at his murder trial.
updated 5:16 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Officials are launching their next option: an underwater vehicle to scan the ocean floor.
updated 8:54 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
A mysterious new artwork has appeared in Cheltenham, where Britain's version of the NSA is located.
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Like many parents across Liverpool, the McManamans waited. 25 years ago, it was all they could do.
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
The Maltese Falcon makes a swift turn while at sea.
How do you design a superyacht fit for the billionaire who has everything money can buy?
updated 11:48 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Pop art condoms in Kenya
Packaging can change how people see things. And when it comes to sex, it could maybe help save lives too.
updated 11:42 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
mediterranean monk seal
Africa is home to much unique wildlife, but many of its iconic species are threatened.
updated 11:09 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
A staff stands next to the propellers of Sun-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 HB-SIB seen in silhouette during its first exit for test on April 14, 2014 in Payerne, a year ahead of their planned round-the-world flight. Solar Impulse 2 is the successor of the original plane of the same name, which last year completed a trip across the United States without using a drop of fuel. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
This solar-powered aircraft will attempt to circle the globe next year.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins.
updated 8:43 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Ebola victims usually come from remote areas -- but now the lethal virus is in a city of two million.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT