Hollande calls for probity as scandal threatens to hit French right
French President François Hollande on Saturday called for “exemplary” behaviour from public office-holders as the scandal that toppled budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac threatened to engulf politicians across the political divide.
“At a time when there are values that must be upheld, moral requirements that apply to everyone who has any responsibility at any level, everyone must serve the republic and in an exemplary fashion,” Hollande said on a visit to Tulle, the south-western French town of which he used to be mayor.
Meanwhile, parliamentary speaker Claude Bartolone said that he was trying to convince Cahuzac, who faces tax-dodging charges after admitting to holding a secret Swiss bank account, not to return to the National Assembly.
As reports that Cahuzac was thinking of taking his seat again circulated, Bartolone conceded that he has a legal right to do so but said he has tried to persuade him not to.
“It would be better for him; it would be better for the National Assembly,” he said.
The site that broke the story, Mediapart, has more revelations up its sleeve, according to it co-founder Edwy Plenel.
On Friday he promised to let loose a “republican scandal” that would hit all of France’s elite.
Accusations are already circulating that leaders of the mainstream right-wing UMP knew about Cahuzac’s account and kept quiet about it, as the lawyer and UMP member Michel Gonelle who kept hold of the recording that proved the account’s existence, claims.
Former health minister Xavier Bertrand mentioned its existence ahead of last year’s election, anonymous civil servants told Saturday’s Libération newspaper.
And in 2008 then-budget minister Eric Woerth claimed to have a list of 3,000 tax-dodgers and told them to declare their assets or face legal action.
Cahuzac was not prosecuted and went on to head parliament’s finance committee, nominated by the Socialists, without the UMP raising the matter.
In 2012, in his capacity of budget minister, Cahuzac, accepted the findings of a report that cleared Woerth of wrongdoing in the sale of a race course in Compiègne, north of Paris.
Its author was law professor Philippe Terneyre.
In 2005 Cahuzac, then mayor of a provincial town, commissioned Terneyre to produce a report on corruption allegations against one of his deputies, Alain Soubiran, Mediapart revealed in January this year.
Despite a favourable note from Terneyre, Soubiran was found guilty in court in 2006.
Hollande's election campaign treasurer; Jean-Jacques Augier, whose tax haven-registered company caused a furore on Thursday, was awarded the French MPs' annual literary prize on Saturday for An irreverent dictionary of China, which he co-authored with Renaud de Spens.