The French cabinet met in Paris, still reeling from confessions of the former budget minister that he had lied about secret offshore bank accounts he had held for 20 years.
President François Hollande went into damage limitation mode after Jerome Cahuzac’s bombshell admission.
“He (Cahuzac) has tricked the highest authorities in the land – the head of state, the government, parliament, and therefore every French citizen. It is unpardonable, it is an outrage committed against the republic and the allegations themselves are intolerable,” Hollande said.
The president said in his short TV address that Cahuzac had not been given any protection from the French authorities.
The former minister has given the Swiss authorities permission to pass his bank account details to investigators in Paris.
The 60-year-old had been leading a campaign against tax dodgers. His admission that he himself hid 600,000 euros from the taxman has set the French opposition baying for answers.
Leader of the opposition conservatives, the UMP, Jean-Francois Copé said: “What do we see? A President of the Republic who either knew nothing – and that is extremely serious because it shows a certain naivety – or he did know about it and lied to the French people.”
President Hollande promised to tighten controls, including the introduction of a ban on public service for those convicted of tax fraud or corruption.