I did it for my family, says 'tax-dodging' French ex-minister

12th September 2016, Comments 0 comments

France's former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac told his tax evasion trial Monday that he had stashed millions abroad because he wanted to maintain his family's standard of living.

Cahuzac, 64, who served in President Francois Hollande's government between 2012 and 2013, is on trial for dodging taxes and laundering money abroad while leading a crackdown on tax dodgers at home.

His ex-wife Patricia, who faces the same charges, told the court Monday the couple had been "aware of the illegality" of using an account in the Isle of Man to dodge tax.

Cahuzac, a trained plastic surgeon who also ran a lucrative hair transplant business that treated members of Paris' high society, said: "I did not accept that my political responsibilities should lead to a fall in my family's standard of living.

"My wife did not accept, or had a lot of difficulty accepting, that I could not cover half of the family's expenditure," he said.

Cahuzac's former wife said she used a Royal Bank of Scotland account in the Isle of Man, an offshore financial centre in the Irish Sea, to deposit cheques from English hair transplant clients through a company that the couple set up in 1997.

She said she would visit London two or three times a year to withdraw up to 9,000 euros ($10,100) each time.

"My husband was aware of this because he had to look after the children when I went on these trips," she said.

Later, with her marriage in difficulty, she also opened an account in Switzerland.

If found guilty, Cahuzac, his ex-wife and his former advisors face up to seven years in prison and fines of up to one million euros.

The former minister initially denied the allegations and sued the Mediapart news website that broke the story in 2012.

Footage of the minister lying to parliament was repeated in an endless loop on French media after he finally confessed in April 2013 to holding a Swiss bank account.

The scandal was the first of a series that have tarnished Hollande's presidency and prompted the president to order his ministers to disclose their personal wealth, a first in France, where the wealth of public officials had long been considered a private matter.

© 2016 AFP

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