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Finance Scandal Threat To French Government …

  • January 9th, 2013
  • Posted by 7thmin

cahuzac.jpgOPINION: New governments seem prone to blunders and scandals that carry off Ministers early, not least in France where the major parties drag around heavy baggage from corruption in past administrations.

This week the man under fire is Jérôme Cahuzac, Budget Minister in the government formed after elections last year (Presidential 6.5.12; parliamentary 17.6.12; see EUAustralia Online, “French Vote: Hollande party consolidates”, 15.6.12).

The Paris parquet, the administrative court, has started an inquiry into claims by the investigative news service, Mediapart, that he hid money in a Swiss bank account, and later in Singapore, before entering public office.

Dr Cahuzac (picture), handsome and fit, wearing well himself at 60, made good money after shifting from being a general surgeon and setting up a plastic surgery business — hair transplants the main service.

He has denied the allegations against him, some of which are made from loose material, e.g. a purported telephone recording in which a person sounding like the accused comments on bank security.

Three observations to be made:

The Socialist Party government headed by President Francois Hollande has been seeking to make capital over its campaign to put a heavy tax on the highest income-earners. Though set to bring in significant revenue it is seen as mostly a very symbolic move to show solidarity with plain folks hard hit in a flagging economy. The tax regime will accompany efforts by the government to balance spending and growth measures, with cost-cutting to reduce public debt. Where that might look to be good sense, to be flapping the red flag, while the very Budget Minister is seen as a bourgeois white-collar crim, must do untold harm to credibility.

Where do we see statesmanship and principle assert itself, and people carrying money in paper bags take a back seat? In the last administration, on the right wing side, it was the Bettencourt  affair: a wealthy woman known to the Budget Minister of the day, said to be getting tax breaks, and keeping money in Switzerland; with a reputation  also of having made informal campaign contributions to conservative politicians, not least the then President, Nicolas Sarkozy. Simultaneously, the former President, Jacques Chirac, was being investigated over alleged placement of party functionaries in publicly funded jobs, during his time as Mayor of Paris. See EUAustralia Online, “Pressure on Nicolas Sarkozy”, 5.9.11; “Sarkozy’s trouble on two fronts …”, 15.9.12. Not much further back, scandal under the Socialist Party once more, much of it invoking the name of the former Foreign Minister, Roland Dumas, and his connection to the plundering of the Elf petroleum company – part-owned by the state. Several other cases occurred during the two terms of President Francois Mitterrand, none touching the impassive, masterly and equivocal gentleman himself.

What about just governing the country?
The Western democracies, not least those in the European Union, are negotiating a drawn-out economic and financial crisis. It may not be so life-threatening, rather one that is testing their resources of intelligence in policy making, and of character in public life. Intelligent solutions and honest government are popular ideas. Elected officials can do well with voters if they can enact those ideas; and, where they find miscreants in their midst, (those who are in it for wrong and sudden gain), where they are prepared to “catch and kill their own”.


Stéphane Alliès and Lénaïg Bredoux, Cahuzac est visé par une enquête judiciaire: L’Elysée dans le flouface aux affaires, (Cahuzac in the sights of a judicial inquiry …), Mediapart, Paris, 8.1.13., (9.1.13).

Angelique Chrisafis, “French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac faces tax fraud allegations”, The Guardian, Manchester, 8.1.13., (9.1.13).

Le Monde, Paris, Blog, La gauche face au poison des affaires (the Left getting caught up in poisonous public affairs), 8.1.13., (9.1.13).