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

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.

How ex-minister Cahuzac became a political pariah for tax fraud
Photo: Screengrab/TF1

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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Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France’s finance stamps

If you're doing a French admin task, you might be asked to provide a 'timbre fiscale' - here's what these are and how to get them.

Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France's finance stamps

In France, you can buy  a very particular kind of stamp to cover the cost of a titre de séjour, or French passport, to pay your taxes, get an ID card if you’re eligible, or pay for your driving licence.

Basically a timbre fiscale is a way of paying a fee to the government, and some online processes – such as the tax offices – now have the more modern method of a bank transfer or card payment.

However there are plenty of official tasks that still demand a timbre fiscale.

In the pre-internet days, this was a way of sending money safely and securely to the government and involved an actual physical stamp – you bought stamps to the value of the money you owned, stuck them onto a card and posted them to government office.

They could be used for anything from paying your taxes to fees for administrative processes like getting a new passport or residency card.

These days the stamps are digital. You will receive, instead, either a pdf document with a QR code that can be scanned from a phone or tablet, or an SMS with a unique 16-digit figure. Both will be accepted by the agency you are dealing with.

Once you have the code you need, you can add this to any online process that requires timbre fiscaux (the plural) and that will complete your dossier.

You can buy them from a properly equipped tabac, at your nearest trésorerie, or online

Paper stamps remain available in France’s overseas départements, but have been gradually phased out in mainland France.