French Ex-Budget Minister Jailed Over Tax Fraud

Jerome Cahuzac, the former budget minister of France, was sentenced to three years in prison in December for tax fraud. Cahuzac, who previously headed a French government clampdown on tax evasion, evidently hid millions of euros in an offshore account in order to evade his tax liabilities. A court in Paris ruled that this constituted irregularities “of an extraordinary and rare seriousness.” Cahuzac’s wife, Patricia Menard, also received a two-year sentence for her role in hiding the money offshore. In addition, the Reyl bank of Geneva in Switzerland was fined 1.875 million euros for its role in the affair.

Cahuzac first admitted to having held an illegal foreign bank account in 2013. He reportedly held such bank accounts for two decades, first in Switzerland and then in Singapore. Prior to taking a role in the government, Cahuzac was a successful cosmetic surgeon with a lucrative hair transplant business. He and his wife funneled funds from their business into overseas accounts to avoid paying taxes. He previously denied that such accounts existed. When it finally emerged that he did have one, he was forced to resign from his position as budget minister, though he did apologize for hiding the funds, saying that he had been “caught in a spiral of lies.”

The scandal has been a stain on the Hollande government, as the president had sought to avoid scandals, which plagued the previous administration. Compounding the government’s embarrassment, Cahuzac was a vocal opponent of tax fraud and tax evasion and vowed to crack down on wealthy French citizens hiding their money in offshore accounts. Because of the scandal, Cahuzac has been expelled from France’s Socialist Party, of which he has been a member since the 1970s. It has also reportedly heightened the French public’s distrust of the country’s political elite and ignited calls for more transparency.

Cahuzac’s lawyer, Jean Veil, has vowed to appeal, saying that three years is far too heavy of a sentence.

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