The man in charge of France’s tax policy is himself being investigated over allegations of tax fraud.
The preliminary inquiry against French Budget Minister Jerôme Cahuzac will seek to establish if he has previously had a secret bank account in Switzerland which had been hidden from the French authorities.
The former plastic surgeon, who specialised in hair replacement, has repeatedly denied the allegations originally made by the investigative website ‘Mediapart’.
Mr Cahuzac has threatened to sue ‘Mediapart’ for defamation and welcomed an investigation that would allow him to prove his innocence.
The website claims that he held an undisclosed account in Swiss bank UBS for 20 years until 2010.
“It was obviously urgent that from a judicial point of view, there be an investigation on the background of the facts,” ‘Mediapart’ journalist, Fabrice Arfi, said.
“It’s a step, it’s a good step, we’re obviously happy here at Mediapart’ that there is a judicial diligence but it could get even better, if the investigation was handed over to an investigating magistrate who is independent from the government in power.”
This could not come at a worst time for President François Hollande’s socialist government which has recently increased taxes on the richest and been publicly critical of wealthy individuals who have shifted their tax base abroad such as French actor Gérard Depardieu.