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Cahuzac scandal prompts reforms

President promises new law on conflict of interest and transparency after former minister admitted secret Swiss account

PRESIDENT Hollande has pledged to introduce a new law within weeks on conflict of interest in politics and the "publication and control" of the wealth of ministers, as he appeared on television to respond to the Jérôme Cahuzac Swiss bank account scandal.

Hollande insisted that his former budget minister, who has admitted holding a UBS account for more than 20 years, had benefited from "no protection - other than the presumption of innocence".

Opponents had accused the president of turning a blind eye to the minister's actions. Le Canard Enchainé newspaper claimed Hollande had been aware as early as December.

Officials who are convicted of tax fraud or corruption would be banned for life from holding any political office under the new measures. The president also pledged more transparency on ministers' wealth to "fight against conflicts of interest".

In a pre-recorded speech, Hollande said Cahuzac committed an "unpardonable fault and an outrage to the republic" by lying for four months about the presence of the account.

A poll yesterday found 86 per cent of French people considered the Cahuzac scandal was "grave" and six in 10 said it had been badly handled by Hollande and his government.

Cahuzac faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of tax evasion.

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