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How ex-minister Cahuzac became a political pariah for tax fraud

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How ex-minister Cahuzac became a political pariah for tax fraud
Photo: Screengrab/TF1
11:41 CET+01:00
Former Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac's was jailed for three years on Thursday. Here is a look at how he became a political pariah in France after being charged with tax fraud and kicked out of the government in 2013.

France's disgraced former Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac was jailed on Thursday for hiding millions from the French tax man.

When the scandal first first broke in March 2013 the French press and politicians were savage in their condemnation of Cahuzac, who initially lied about having done anything wrong.

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

The then 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.

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.

Ex-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, the ex-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.

The then Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici denied 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.

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