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April 09, 2013

La Tempête: France Embroiled In Major Political Scandal as Former Socialist Budget Minister Caught Hiding Money In Swiss Bank Accounts

I came across this in Le Figaro, trying to keep my hand in at French. It doesn't seem to be getting much play in the American press.

But Le Figaro is pretty much this story all down the home page. (Oh, I should note that Le Figaro is a conservative-leaning paper (conservative, for France) so one could expect them to be particularly delighted in a socialist scandal.)

It's a full-blown political crisis. The Socialist Prime Minister President is down to 24% favorable, 70% unfavorable.

Cahuzac's secret Swiss back account is particularly problematic because Cahuzac had been tasked with... exposing those who hid money in secret bank accounts, to escape France's confiscatory tax rates.

Oops.

"Allo! 'Ere eet eez! I found un!" -- Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac, as reported by @zamoose

But getting back to the real reporting:

Cahuzac, a cabinet heavyweight who had been tasked with fighting tax evasion by President Francois Hollande, finally admitted to having a foreign bank account last week, following weeks of denials.

The scandal has been a major blow to Mr Hollande, with surveys indicating yesterday that nearly two-thirds of French people are in favour of a government reshuffle.

Three in five respondents to a poll conducted for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper said they were in favour of a government reshuffle over the "Cahuzac affair".

...

"For the French, the Cahuzac affair is not an isolated act. There is mistrust towards their elected representatives," Frederic Dabi, deputy head of Ifop, the polling company that conducted the survey, was quoted as saying.

And then this is just weird:

Meanwhile, Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's defence minister announced that a camel given to Mr Hollande in Mali in February as a gift from a local official for liberating the county from Islamic extremists had been killed and eaten.

Mr Hollande was presented with the camel on his triumphant visit to Mali, but left it in the care of a family in Timbuktu because of complications in transporting it back to France. The young camel has now apparently been killed and turned into a stew.

Hollande has proposed a series of laws and initiatives to quell the crisis, such as requiring all government ministers and high-ranking personnel to declare their "patronomie" (net wealth and total holdings; I note this because it took me like an hour to figure out what the "patronomie" scandal was about.). This is being resisted, as some government folks are objecting to having the public know about, say, the value of a country home.

Cahuzac has since been ejected from the Socialist Party for being too awesome at Socialism.

The bigger suspicion is of course that Cahuzac is not some kind of aberration, and in fact this practice of government ministers hiding money from their own tax regimes is widespread.

Why isn't a major political scandal, which may well yet bring down the government of a major power, getting any play in America?

You have to think it's due to the fact that this hurts the "wrong" people, the Socialists. And that what Cahuzac is (allegedly) guilty of -- an entitled member of the socialist-leaning political class engaged in self-dealing to enrich himself at the expense of the public -- is an issue that the Obama Administration would like to not talk about.

More Context: From JeffB. He notes I "undersell" it. True. Honestly I had no idea this was even A Thing until last night. But this has been a grave and growing scandal -- the words for "storm" and "tempest" are frequently used -- since March 19th, and Hollande has yet to turn any kind of corner on it.

Anyway, some of the backstory and context:

It's hard over-emphasize how big a story this currently is in France right now. If anything, Ace undersells it.

It all goes back to the insane tax rate (70%, IIRC) that Francois Hollande tried to impose upon top earners in France. France is, as you might know, a pretty left-wing country in general, however the Socialist Party was stunned to find out that the people (99% of whom, of course, don't earn enough to be touched by it) were opposed to it when they moved to implement. Shit got worse when the French courts did what I wish our SCOTUS actually had the balls to do, and struck it down due to problems with its inconsistent and inequitable application.

Now, place all of this in the context of 1.) an ongoing Euro crisis, one where France with its moribund economy isn't quite being lumped in with the PIIGS (and Cyprus), but is being eyed warily at the very least by Germany and the northern Euro countries, and is feeling a sense of national helplessness; 2.) the French unemployment rate is at a 16 year high, nearing 11%; 3.) Did I mention the Eurozone looks like it's teetering on the brink of collapse?

All of this, plus an increasing reputation for bumbling and ineffectiveness, had already brought Hollande's numbers into the crapper. So what's their solution? The "shiny object!" strategy: let's go after those plutocrat bastards hiding their money in other countries to avoid paying their social responsibility to their fellow Frenchmen! Let's go after them hard! Let's appoint a TASKFORCE to bring these bastards up to the surface!

Oops.

And that's how you get to a 25% approval rating within two years of sweeping into office.

The rumors all over French media are chattering about how there are more shoes yet to drop -- other cabinet ministers with hidden bank accounts, money squirreled away to avoid the confiscatory tax rates, etc. This could get well and truly AWESOME before it's done.

It's at Le Drudge: Commenters noted that it actually has been on Drudge. I missed that myself. But here's another British paper reporting on it.



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posted by Ace at 01:07 PM

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