France

Hollande campaign treasurer invested in tax haven

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François Hollande’s presidential election campaign manager participated in two companies registered in the Cayman Islands tax haven. The news comes as the French government struggles with the fallout of tax-dodging charges against disgraced budget minister, Jérôme Cahuzac.

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Le Monde newspaper reports that 59-year-old businessman Jean-Jacques Augier, a friend of Hollande’s for 30 years, had joint ownership of two firms registered in the Cayman Islands.

Dossier: The Cahuzac affair

Augier confirmed the existence of the firms and said they had been set up to form partnerships with foreign entrepreneurs.

"There is nothing illegal," he told Le Monde, which carried out the probe with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other international media, including Britain's Guardian.

"My adventurous nature is responsible. Maybe I lacked a bit of caution," he added.

Augier denied gaining any tax concessions himself from the investments in a statement following publication of the story, adding that he had no personal accounts outside France.

The investigation shows that in 2005 he and two partners set up International Bookstores, which aimed to open bookshops in China, with French expatriate Jacques Roueaux and Chinese businessma, Xi Shu.

He claims that it was based in the Caymans at Xi’s suggestion.

In 2008-2009 he participated in the establishment of a second company along with several tour operators from various countries. It has since been moved to Hong Kong, he told Le Monde.

The investigation has published the names of thousands of holders of offshore accounts, thanks to the leak of millions of emails and documents, mainly from the British Virgin Islands.

The names of about 100 French nationals feature on the list, according to Le Monde, which estimates that the accounts mean tax collectors losing 1,250 billion euros, 50 billion of them in France.

Hollande's Socialist government is desperately trying to limit the damage from the Cahuzac affair as it also tries to raise the cash to pay off its deficit from taxes and cuts in social services.

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