Former French budget minister Jerome Cahuzac was sentenced to two years in prison in May on tax fraud charges. Cahuzac, a 65-year-old former cosmetic surgeon, served as the budget minister under former French president Francois Hollande between 2012 and 2013.
Ironically, the now disgraced politician led a crackdown on tax evasion during his tenure as the budget minister. Socialist President Hollande made a more equitable tax system a central part of his presidential campaign, promising to address the country’s economic woes by making France’s rich pay their fair share of taxes. Upon taking office in 2012, Hollande appointed Cahuzac to lead his government’s crackdown on the tax evasion.
Cahuzac ardently campaigned for a more honest tax system in public during his time in office – all while secretly stashing millions of euros of his own money in tax havens away from authorities. An investigative website broke the news of tax fraud allegations within just a few months of him taking office. He initially vehemently denied the allegations, even lying to the French Parliament.
He famously proclaimed from the government benches, “I do not have, I have never had, an account abroad, not now, not ever.”
In 2013, however, he admitted that he hid considerable sums of money in a Swiss bank account for two decades, totaling roughly €600,000.
Cahuzac’s ex-wife, Patricia Ménard, was also involved in the scheme. The two jointly ran a lucrative hair-transplant business, which treated some of Europe’s most well-known public figures and celebrities. They reportedly moved millions of euros in profits to a range of offshore jurisdictions, including Singapore and the Isle of Man, in order to avoid paying taxes. Ménard was also convicted of tax fraud for her involvement. The French media reported that €3.5 million in total were hidden from tax authorities.
In his first trial in 2016, Cahuzac received a sentence of three years. He appealed the decision, and a Paris court of appeals upheld his conviction. The court subsequently sentenced him to four years but suspended two. In addition, he was fined €300,000 and banned from running for office for five years. He was also banned from the French Socialist Party, of which he had been a member since the 1970s.
The scandal had a devastating impact on the Hollande presidency and on French politics more broadly, increasing the French public’s mistrust of the country’s political class.
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