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Pressure Builds on Hollande over Tax Fraud Scandal - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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French President Francois Hollande attends the economic forum with French and Moroccan business leaders at a hotel in Rabat April 4, 2013.   (REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal)

French President Francois Hollande attends the economic forum with French and Moroccan business leaders at a hotel in Rabat April 4, 2013. (REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal)

Paris, AFP—French newspapers said Hollande was facing his biggest political crisis since taking office, with popular daily Le Parisien saying the situation had become “untenable” for the government.

A source close to Housing Minister Cecile Duflot, one of two ministers from the Greens party in Hollande’s government, said she had demanded “a strong political response” to the scandal during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Adding to Hollande’s woes, Le Monde newspaper reported that his campaign treasurer for last year’s presidential vote, 59-year-old businessman Jean-Jacques Augier, had joint ownership of two firms registered in the Cayman Islands, a well-known tax haven.

Augier confirmed the existence of the firms and said they had been set up to form partnerships with foreign entrepreneurs.

“There is nothing illegal,” Augier told Le Monde, which carried out the probe with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other international media.

“My adventurous nature is responsible. Maybe I lacked a bit of caution,” he added.

Hollande appeared on national television Wednesday to address the Cahuzac scandal, vowing a new law within weeks on the “publication and control” of the wealth of ministers and parliamentarians.

He said he knew nothing of the foreign account and that Cahuzac “did not benefit from any protection” from the government.

The government was struggling to contain the scandal on Thursday, with ministers insisting it did not go beyond the actions of one man.

“This was a very serious individual failure. This was not a system of corruption in a party, group or the state,” Cahuzac’s replacement as budget minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, told Europe 1 radio.

Opposition lawmakers have called for a parliamentary probe into the scandal and an opinion poll showed nearly two-thirds of respondents saying the government has handled the situation badly.

Hollande had promised a government of unimpeachable morals after his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy was embroiled in a series of corruption and influence peddling investigations.

The tax scandal is further damaging the standing of Hollande, who is languishing in opinion polls less than a year into his five-year term.

A TNS Sofres poll released Thursday but conducted before the scandal erupted showed Hollande’s approval rating at only 27 percent.

Cahuzac, 60, announced his resignation on March 19 after prosecutors opened a probe into the account, first revealed by the investigative Mediapart news website in December.

He met with investigators on Tuesday, admitted to having had the foreign account for around 20 years and said in a statement that he was “devastated by guilt”.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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