One of France’s most reviled politicians went on trial on Monday.
Former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac was the face of the country’s fight against tax evaders – until he was forced to admit he himself was dodging taxes, hiding money in secret accounts around the world.
Cahuzac and his ex-wife Patricia Menard are on trial until mid-September, both accused of tax evasion and money-laundering.
The 64-year-old former rising star in the French Socialist Party is accused of concealing at least 687,000 euros in income from tax authorities between 2009 and 2012.
He’s also accused of laundering money through foreign bank accounts in Switzerland and Singapore and dummy companies in Panama and the Seychelles.
Cahuzac, who acknowledged evading taxes for two decades, faces up to seven years in prison and a 1-million-euro fine if convicted.
Cahuzac was forced to resign in 2013, in one of the biggest scandals under President Francois Hollande.
And the former cosmetic surgeon sent more tremors across the political landscape as his trial opened. He told judges he opened his first secret account in Switzerland in 1992, to fund the political movement of former prime minister Michel Rocard, who died last July.
Political party funding was then just starting to be regulated in France, including by a 1990 law carrying Rocard’s name.
Cahuzac said he was told that the only way for him to help out was in the shadows. He said he was “certain” that Rocard knew nothing of the alleged illegal funding.