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Hollande knew of disgraced minister's secret Swiss account, inquiry chair claims

Charles de Courson in RFI's studios
Charles de Courson in RFI's studios RFI

French President François Hollande was “perfectly informed” of Jérôme Cahuzac’s secret Swiss bank account well before the disgraced budget minister was fired, the chairman of the parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the scandal said Wednesday.


“We have proof that the president was perfectly informed,” inquiry commission chair Charles de Courson, who is an opposition MP, told France 2 television.

Dossier: The Cahuzac affair

Michel Gonelle, the right-wing politician who made public the tapes of Cahuzac discussing the account, told the deputy director of Hollande’s staff, Alain Zabulon, of their existence on 15 December 2012, de Courson said, adding that he told Elysée secretary general Pierre-René Lemas and that the two immediately went to see Hollande about them.

Edwy Plenel, the editor of Mediapart, the website that broke the story, told the presidential palace that the site had proof of Cahuzac’s tax-dodging on 18 December, he said, adding that Plenel is “a personal friend of the president, they have even written a book together”.

So Hollande must had all the necessary information at some point between 4-18 December, according to de Courson, who demanded to know why he did not sack Cahuzac then, rather than waiting until March 2013.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

The commission of inquiry cannot summon the president to give testimony, although de Courson would not rule out hearing Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

On Tuesday Cahuzac’s immediate boss, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, admitted that the budget minister was present at a meeting on 16 January with the president and the prime minister.

That meeting decided to ask the Swiss tax authorities to verify the existence of Cahuzac’s account with the UBS bank, a “disastrous” decision according to de Courson since the Swiss denied its existence, a claim that turned out to be false.

The January meeting would appear to be in breach of a directive, issued after Mediapart’s first story appeared on 4 December, that Cahuzac be excluded from all decision-making on the question.

During a parliamentary debate in April Moscovici claimed not to have known anything about the secret account until Cahuzac himself admitted that it existed.

A group of French MPs and senators on Wednesday called on the government to intervene in favour of Pierre Condamin-Gerbier, a former bank employee who claims to have a list of French politicians who have Swiss bank accounts.

Condamin-Gerbier is a French citizen, who worked for Reyl & Cie bank which in fact held Cahuzac’s account.

He was placed under preventive detention after his employer filed a complaint for “theft, falsification of documents and violation of secret and commercial secrets”.

The group, with members from all parties except the mainstream right-wing UMP, drew attention to the “essential” role of whistle-blowers in fighting tax fraud and financial crimes.

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