THE president and prime minister have rushed to distance themselves from the scandal surrounding ex-budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac.
President Hollande said in a statement that Cahuzac, who has admitted lying about having an undeclared Swiss bank account, had “committed an unforgiveable ethical misdeed”.
Interviewed on France 2, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stressed the fact he and other colleagues were in the dark about Cahuzac’s lies. “I had no reason not to believe him,” he said, referring to the ex-minister’s repeated denials after he was accused of holding a secret account by news website Mediapart at the end of last year.
Mr Ayrault said the affair represented a “particularly serious lie with regard to the Republic, the state, the French people...” and Cahuzac should “no longer exercise any kind of political responsibility”.
Other political parties had cast doubt on whether or not the leaders knew about Cahuzac’s lies – which included a denial in front of parliament - and at best the affair makes them look less than competent when Hollande had promised to head up an “irreproachable Republic”.
The leader of Opposition party UMP, Jean-François Copé, has been quoted saying: “The question is on everyone’s mind; it is difficult to imagine that François Hollande knew nothing.”
Even some on the Left have raised doubts. “If it turns out that the Elysée has known about this since December and no measures were taken we have the right to ask questions about what kind of idea the leadership of this country has about the public interest,” said leader of green party EELV Pascal Durand.
Cahuzac, who has now admitted in the course of judicial investigations, having an account holding €600,000, has said he fell into a “spiral of lies”. He said he has given instructions for the money from the account, which he has held for 20 years, to be paid into his French bank account.
He had formerly denied the account existed and had said he would take action for defamation against Mediapart.