Fired French Minister Fights Tax Fraud Charge at Trial

Updated on
  • Cahuzac says he can’t be tried after tax authorities concerns
  • Ex-minister seeks to halt trial on double jeopardy claim

Former French Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac sought to delay a trial over whether he lied about offshore accounts by challenging the judiciary’s right to review a dispute that has already led to a fine from national tax authorities.

The repetitive procedures are "illegal and contrary" to the European Court of Human Rights’ case law, Jean Veil,  Cahuzac’s lawyer, said on the first day of a criminal trial in Paris Monday. Judges at Paris’ criminal court said they will decide on Wednesday whether Cahuzac’s double jeopardy claim has merit and should be reviewed by an appeals court.

Cahuzac was forced to resign as budget minister in 2013 over holding undeclared offshore accounts after lying for months when quizzed about the matter. A wealthy plastic surgeon who had been considered one of the Socialist Party’s brightest stars, Cahuzac was supposed to be spearheading the government’s fight against tax evasion.

Jean-Alain Michel, another lawyer for Cahuzac, challenged the necessity and proportionality of a criminal trial given that Cahuzac has already paid the back taxes and a penalty. Cahuzac and his wife Patricia paid a combined fine of 351,719 euros ($393,000), according to Xavier Normand-Bodard, a lawyer for French tax authorities.

Both Normand-Bodard and Vice Prosecutor Jean-Marc Toublanc rejected Cahuzac’s claims and requested that the trial proceed.

About 1,000 people face prosecution each year after receiving a fine from tax authorities, Toublanc said.

“For years and years no one found anything wrong with that. Not even Cahuzac,” he said.

Toublanc said double jeopardy only applies if the civil fiscal penalty is equivalent to the criminal one Cahuzac faces, which isn’t the case. If convicted, Cahuzac could be slapped with a range of sanctions including seven years in prison, a 1 million-euro fine, the confiscation of real estate and even the loss of the right to vote, the vice prosecutor said.

“Money doesn’t trump everything, money doesn’t have the same price as our fundamental freedoms,” Toublanc said.

(Updates with judges decision in second paragraph.)
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