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France - Live blog

Live blog - Hollande government rocked by Cahuzac affair

Reuters

French President François Hollande was set to make a special televised statement following Wednesday's cabinet meeting, following former Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac's confession that he had a secret account in Switzerland and indictment for tax dodging. RFI follows the crisis in a live blog.

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This blog is now closed. For further developments, consult our dossier: The Cahuzac Affair.

05.00pm: François Bayrou, president of centrist Modem party, whose last-minute decision to back François Hollande was a crucial factor in Hollande's presidential election victory, makes public statement on crisis enveloping government. Proposes a national petition on a website, where citizens can approve a series of measures to clean up public life.

03.45pm: Hollande arrives in Morocco, accompanied by several ministers, for a two-day official visit programmed before Cahuzac's confession and indictment. He is met by King Mohammed VI.

03.00pm. Ayrault faces parliament. "While the press knew what was known at the head of the state and for how long?" UMP MP Bernard Accoyer asked him.

"Do you believe if we had had the least suspicion we would have asked M Jérôme Cahuzac to become minister of the budget?" he replies.

"This man lied to all of us," he insists after being enthusiastically applauded by his own side.

Dossier: The Cahuzac affair

Ayrault admits he had doubts but accuses the right of failing to raise the question, because "like us" they trusted the legal system.

His government has not interfered with the course of justice nor with the media, he says, insinuating that the previous one did.

Socialist group leader Bruno Le Roux: "One of our own" has sullied the image of  parliament. 

Several bills are to be tabled, Ayrault says - constitutional reform, opposed by the right, he says, relations between magistrates and political power and the "exemplary republic", for the prevention of conflict of interests, anyone found guilty of tax-dodging will be banned from holding public office.

Jean-Christophe Lagardère, of the centre-right UDI, demands a parliamentary inquiry, asks Moscovici knew of Gonelle contacting the president.

The Swiss documentation on Cahuzac were given to the relevant authorities in January, as soon as he received them, Moscovici insists.

What has happened is the responsibility of an individual, a minister who signed an ethical charter, says Justice Minister Christiane Taubira. The inquiry has proceeded without political interference, breaking with previous practice, she claims.

"There are other scandals that concern the people of this country, including scandals that touch members of your political family," she tells the right and pledges that investigations will continue.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

02.20pm. Green MP Noël Mamère says that "he seriously doubts" that former president Nicolas Sarkozy did not know about Cahuzac's past and "the conflicts of interest" concerning him when he named him head of parliament's finance committee.

France needs a law such as the one the Greens proposed under the previous presidency, he has told AFP, accusing Sarkozy of undermining the finance inspectorate because he "didn't like it poking its nose into his and his friend's affairs".
 

02.00pm. The man who was the first to raise suspicions that Cahuzac had a secret bank account, tax inspector Rémy Garnier, is to be questioned by investigators in Agen, south-west France, this afternoon, regional newspaper Sud-Ouest reports.

Garnier raised his doubts in a Bordeaux court in 2008. He has sent investigators an email dating from last December showing anomalies in Cahuzac's tax returns, the paper says.
Garnier's lawyer is Michel Gonelle, the UMP member who passed the recording to Médiapart.

Private detective Alain Letellier is reported to have questioned Garnier while acting for Cahuzac's wife Patricia in divorce proceedings. Her lawyer is Jean-François Copé's sister, Isabelle Copé.

01.32pm. François Bayrou, the chairman of the liberal Modem party, is to make an announcement on the Cahuzac affair at 05.00pm.
 

01.11pm. The Socialists' parliamentary leader, Bruno Le Roux, welcomes Hollande's statement, saying that he has taken the "measures that are needed".

If convicted, Cahuzac faces up to five years in prison.
 

One of the Socialist parliamentary group's spokespeople, Thierry Mandon, declares himself "astonished" by the "noisy awakening" of the right-wing opposition, claiming that the government's opponents have kept a low profile in the affair until now.


01.08pm
. Nothing that Hollande has proposed would have prevented what has happened,  mainstream right-wing leader Jean-François Copé says. "Did François Hollande know?" he asks. "It's a serious crisis in the country's chain of command."

01.01pm. Cahuzac has accepted that documents taken from Swiss banks be transferred to France, his Swiss lawyer Didier Boottge has announced.

12.59pm. The Interior Ministry denies that there was a "parallel inquiry" into Cahuzac's account and says secret services were not involved in any inquiry. It denies speculation that Interior Minister Manuel Valls ordered such and inquiry and says such idea "comes from times past and outdated practices".

12.46pm. "Yet another scandal," was the response of Front National leader Marine Le Pen. "I don't see how the president can get out of this with the petty measures that he has proposed."

"Beyond this Cahuzac affair, the list is too long," she declared, calling on the government to resign and call new elections.

12.32pm Hollande statement: "Jérôme Cahuzac lied," he says.

He has had no protection apart from the protection of the presumption of innocence.

Hollande promises a law "in the coming weeks" to publish details of the property of all ministers, reform the legal system, so as to restore confidence in magistrates, and MPs found guilty of fraud and corruption to be banned from holding public office for life.

Midday: Despite announcements that the statement was to be broadcast before midday, TV channels were still waiting at 12.10pm.

Hollande is reported to have recorded the statement after the weekly cabinet meeting before leaving for a previously planned visit to Morocco.

The plane awaited him on the tarmac at midday.

Socialist leaders desperately tried to dissociate themselves from Cahuzac, who was charged with Hollande's tax-the-rich plan, with party chief Harlem Désir declaring that Cahuzac was de facto expelled from the party and declaring, "We feel betrayed."

Hollande reportedly told ministers that a new law on ministers' financial interests will be prepared to fulfil his promise of clean government.

Right-wing MP Claude Goasguen has called on Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, who was Cahuzac's boss, to resign.

At the beginning of February Moscovici announced that Swiss tax authorities had sent him a dossier on the accusations against Cahuzac but did not reveal its content.

Click on the picture to see Mediapart website

Hollande "has no excuse" for not acting earlier, according to Edwy Plenel, the co-founder of the Médiapart website that broke the story.


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