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Senate blocks Hollande's anti-corruption crusade

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Senate blocks Hollande's anti-corruption crusade
Former French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac, whose resignation over tax evasion and money laundering charges prompted the drive against political corruption. Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP
10:45 CEST+02:00
French President François Hollande's crusade against political corruption hit a roadblock early on Tuesday morning after the Senate voted to remove the most crucial article that would have forced ministers to make their assets public.

The essential elements of the bill –allowing members of the public to see their elected representatives’ wealth and property, and forcing ministers to declare their interests – were deleted after the radical grouping in the Senate sided with the opposition centre-right UMP party.

The vote means government ministers, heads of regional authorities, cabinet staff and advisors to the presidency will no longer have to reveal their wealth, or lack of it, to the public.

This comes after the Senate had already removed the controversial article that would have forced all MPs and senators to reveal their assets.

“There is a water leak in the Elysée, and yet they’re sending the plumbers to the Senate,” Pierre-Yves Collombat, from the European Democratic and Social Rally (RDSE) contingent in the chamber, was quoted as saying by French daily Le Nouvel Observateur.

The move is a blow to the president as the legislation is the cornerstone of his high-profile drive to clean up French politics.

Hollande took action to make politicians more transparent after his former budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac resigned in disgrace in April after finally admitting he had funnelled hundreds of thousands of euros into undeclared  foreign bank accounts.

The main centre-right opposition UMP party voted against the passage of the bill, claiming it “goes much too far in thwarting the free exercise of professional activity,” according to Senator Philippe Bas.

The radically-revised bill is set to come before a ‘Commision mixte parliamentaire’ on Tuesday, composed of seven senators and seven deputies, which will attempt to thrash out compromise legislation which will then be put to the National Assembly for a definitive vote.

The lower chamber had previously adopted a version of the bill which would allow members of the public to consult politicians’ assets and interests at their local authorities, while forbidding them from disseminating the information in public.

Earlier this year Hollande demanded that all ministers make their assets public. But the move turned into somewhat of a farce after certain minister's declarations, including bicycles, were met with public derision. (See the gallery below)

GALLERY: SHOW ME THE MONEY – FRENCH POLITICIANS REVEAL THEIR ASSETS

A parliamentary committee is continuing to investigate the Cahuzac scandal and is set to grill three high profile ministers on the subject on Tuesday, including Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici.

Cahuzac was charged with “laundering the proceeds of tax evasion” during a sensational scandal which rocked the Socialist-led French government.

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