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Ex-minister lets Swiss pass bank data to France

Cahuzac now has to face the music Keystone

Details of the Swiss bank account held by former French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac will be forwarded very shortly to investigators in Paris, the office of Geneva’s public prosecutor said in a statement on Wednesday.

Normally such procedures take several weeks or even months, but in this case can be speeded up since Cahuzac has given his permission for the transfer of information.

The statement said Geneva prosecutor Yves Bertossa had acted on a French request to obtain documents from UBS and Reyl & Cie, the two banks involved. It said Cahuzac had had a Swiss account since 1992. It is thought to have been moved from UBS to Reyl & Cie. According to Cahuzac’s lawyer, it was transferred to Singapore in 2009.

The two banks had provided the Geneva prosecutor with documentary evidence of Cahuzac’s account on March 22.

On Tuesday, Cahuzac was placed under formal investigation after admitting to holding a secret bank account containing around €600,000 (CHF730,000).

He apologised for the embarrassment he had caused the French socialist government headed by President François Hollande, saying that he was “devastated by remorse”.
“I was caught in a spiral of lies and lost my way,” he wrote in a blog on Tuesday, April 2. “It was an unspeakable mistake to think that I could avoid confronting a past that I wanted to consider behind me. I will now face this reality with all transparency.”

“Unpardonable moral error”

While Cahuzac failed to mention the source of the secret funds, it has been widely reported that he had held a UBS account. Last month, the Geneva prosecutor’s office was asked to assist in the French probe, days after Cahuzac stepped down from office.

On Wednesday Hollande made a pre-recorded address to the nation, in which he stated that Cahuzac had not benefited from any protection. A presidential spokesman said that it was important to stifle “the most sickening rumours that could damage democracy” and to “crush immediately allegations that could harm the honour of the government”.

Earlier Hollande had spoken of the ex-minister’s guilt as an “unpardonable moral error”. Cahuzac had been one of the most vocal members of Hollande’s administration in speaking out against tax havens. He was expelled from the Socialist Party on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said there will be no reshuffle, despite calls from the left and right of the political spectrum demanding explanations about who in the government knew what when.

The French government has made a point of targeting tax cheats and announced plans earlier this year to crack down on wealthy citizens who live in Switzerland to avoid higher French taxes.
News of Cahuzac’s alleged secret Swiss bank account was first aired last December by the French investigative website Mediapart. After threatening to sue the website for defamation, Cahuzac made his confession to investigating magistrates on Tuesday.

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