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Ex-minister Cahuzac becomes political pariah

Dan MacGuill · 3 Apr 2013, 09:32

Published: 03 Apr 2013 09:32 GMT+02:00

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France's disgraced former Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac was expelled from the Socialist Party on Wednesday a day after he admitted lying about hiding away money from the tax man in a Swiss bank account.

It was the latest stage in the downfall of a man once tasked with cracking down on tax evasion, who now faces charges himself of "laundering the proceeds of tax fraud".

Socialist Party chief Harlem Desir announced on Wednesday morning that Cahuzac had been expelled.

It was another nail in the coffin of the political career of a man, who was considered a government heavyweight and key ally of François Hollande. It could get worse still for Cahuzac, who now faces a jail sentence and hefty fine if found guilty.

Both the French press and politicians have been savage in their condemnation of him.

President of the Republic, François Hollande, led the charge on Tuesday evening, denouncing his former ally's four-month campaign of denial and counter-attack as “an inexcusable moral error.”

Prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was similarly unforgiving, effectively writing Cahuzac's political obituary in the process.

“He must accept all the consequences of his lie, before the French people, and never again exercise political authority,” he told TF1 television on Tuesday night.

Among the French commentariat, there has been no-holds-barred condemnation.

"This is total humiliation. With his lies and concealments, Jérôme Cahuzac has done more than just sully his own honour," wrote a columnist in the left-leaning Libération.

"He has discredited all political speech, and raised doubts as to the authority of the head of state."

For its part, right-leaning daily Le Figaro also bemoaned the affair's effect on public opinion. "At a time when France goes a little bit deeper into crisis every day, nothing could be more serious than the atmosphere of general suspicion that the Cahuzac affair will inevitably provoke," wrote one columnist.

In a sign of what was to follow with his later expulsion none of Cahuzac's former colleagues in the Socialist Party were willing to offer any support or consolation.

“I am between rage and consternation,” said deputy Nicolas Bays, taking to Twitter to vent his emotions over the scandal.

Socialist Industrial Development Minister Arnaud Montebourg found himself equally angry. "My hands are shaking. I have no words," he was quoted as saying by Le Figaro.

Already on the right, meanwhile, questions were being asked as to the role of President Hollande in the affair.

Jean-François Copé, leader of the opposition UMP party judged that Hollande had a case to answer as to what exactly he knew.

“Either he knew nothing, which in itself is extremely serious, because it demonstrates a certain naivité, or he did know something, which means he lied to the French people,” Copé was quoted as saying by French daily Le Parisien.

Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici denied on Wednesday that the government had tried to "obstruct justice".

Claude Guéant, the Interior Minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy, was disgusted by Cahuzac's constant denials of the allegations until he came clean yesterday.

“He openly mocked the President of the Republic and the government,” Guéant told Radio Classique.

“This affair is distressing in terms of the functioning of our democracy, and the trust that our fellow citizens can have in their elected officials,” he added.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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