French ask for help in ex-minister's tax probe

French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac denies allegations of tax evasion via a UBS account Keystone

The Geneva prosecutor’s office has received a request to help French authorities in their investigation of former Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac, who stepped down Tuesday amid charges of having stashed money in a Swiss bank account.

This content was published on March 20, 2013 - 15:59 and agencies

Cahuzac, who had been heading a French government crackdown on tax evasion, denies having kept money in an UBS account since 2010.

Geneva prosecutor Yves Bertossa will be responsible for examining the French request for information and deciding how to respond. There is no legal mandate for how long the decision may take.

Cahuzac’s resignation comes as a major embarrassment to French president François Hollande’s government, which has placed increased scrutiny on finding and prosecuting tax evaders. The government is also in the midst of drafting plans to reduce France’s debt and maintain its fiscal credibility in the European Union, an effort to which Cahuzac was crucial.

Hollande has supported Cahuzac since a preliminary investigation into his banking activities was opened in January.

The investigation into Cahuzac’s banking activities was prompted by a report from the French investigative news website Mediapart, against whom Cahuzac has since issued a defamation complaint. Since the report was issued in December, the French public prosecutor said police laboratory tests showed a correlation between Cahuzac’s voice and that of an individual admitting to holding an undisclosed account at UBS on a recording published by Mediapart.

Paris prosectors opened a formal judicial investigation into Cahuzac’s activities on Tuesday, prompting his resignation.

Cahuzac, a former plastic surgeon who became a prominent, fiscally conservative member of the Socialist Party, will be replaced by current Europe Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

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