French ministers declare assets in online audit | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.04.2013
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French ministers declare assets in online audit

France's 37 government ministers, along with Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, have published a list of their assets and their values on a special government website. This follows a colleague's dishonorable discharge.

The French-language website containing asset declarations from the ministers in President Francois Hollande's government (http://www.declarations-patrimoine.gouvernement.fr) was launched in the early hours of Monday evening.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius topped the cabinet rich list comfortably, listing properties, stocks, life insurance, bank savings and other assets with a total value of just over 6 million euros ($7.85 million). A Paris apartment worth 2.75 million euros was by far the largest entry on the ledger. Fabius, also a former prime minister, is a grandson of renowned 19th-century antiquities dealer and collector Elie Fabius.

Eight of the ministers posted assets valued at over one million euros. President Francois Hollande, who had already published such a statement on the Elysee's website, is also worth just over one million. The minister for the elderly, former cancer specialist and comparative political newcomer Michele Delaunay, was second with a fortune of just over five million.

Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, with a total of 268,000 euros, was among the least wealthy.

A statement on the website's home page said that all assets, including those that were tax-exempt, were included in the lists, with the figures valid as of the end of March. It also said that several details, such as the ministers' home addresses, the identity of former owners of the assets and individual bank account numbers were withheld for security and privacy reasons.

Cahuzac's Swiss account scandal

President Hollande's government has come under severe scrutiny in recent months amid the political downfall of former Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac. An investigative news report published in December played footage, saying it was Cahuzac's voice in a phone call, where the minister was apparently talking about an offshore Swiss bank account.

For months, and even after he resigned his government post, Cahuzac said the story was a lie. Earlier in April, with public prosecutors coming ever closer to filing formal charges, Cahuzac published a confession on his personal blog.

The following day, Hollande called Cahuzac's apparent deception "an insult to the Republic" in a televised speech. At the time, the leader of the center-right opposition UMP, Francois Cope, said Hollande had either "showed a certain amount of naiveté," or "lied to the French people" by initially supporting Cahuzac, depending on whether or not he knew the truth.

On Monday, Cope said in an interview with BFM-TV that the website's publication had become "a spectacle that no longer has anything to do with the French people's expectations, a kind of smokescreen invented by Francois Hollande to try to make people forget the disastrous Cahuzac affair."

Cope also said he did not intend to make his assets available for public scrutiny.

msh/slk (AFP, Reuters)