Europe

France's President Hollande: Eradicate tax havens

French President Francois Hollande, 10 Apr 13
Image caption President Hollande was getting poor opinion poll ratings even before the tax scandal

French President Francois Hollande has called for "eradication" of the world's tax havens and told French banks they must declare all of their subsidiaries.

He was speaking after presenting a draft law aimed at "moralising" French public life - a response to the tax scandal that has shaken his presidency.

France's ex-Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac has been charged with fraud over a secret Swiss bank account.

Mr Hollande said a new central agency would fight fraud and corruption.

Earlier the French Socialist government set a deadline of 15 April for ministers to declare their assets, as part of the new transparency drive.

Mr Cahuzac admitted last week that he had hidden about 600,000 euros (£509,000; $770,000) in a Swiss bank account, causing shock in France. He has now been expelled from the Socialist Party for lying about his financial affairs.

Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, Mr Hollande said "tax havens must be eradicated in Europe and worldwide".

"I won't hesitate to consider as a tax haven any country that refuses to co-operate fully with France."

He said French banks "will have to publish every year the full list of their subsidiaries in the world, country by country". They will also have to explain their business, he said.

"In other words it won't be possible for a bank to hide transactions carried out in a tax haven."

Mr Hollande said a new national, specialist prosecutor would act on cases of fraud and corruption.

In addition, "a high-level authority will be created to monitor the assets and interests of ministers, members of parliament, top elected officials", he said.

A list of banned professions for politicians will be drawn up, to prevent conflicts of interest.

Spate of scandals

Referring to the disgraced minister Jerome Cahuzac, he said "the judiciary is on the case - it will have to give its judgement".

He said Mr Cahuzac should not return to the lower house - the National Assembly.

"This is, I think, a question of conscience. How can someone return to the parliament where a lie was told?" Mr Hollande said.

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris says polls suggest respect for ministers and MPs is at an all time low in France.

There are now calls for a government reshuffle and in some quarters a new Sixth Republic.

The Cahuzac affair comes on top of other scandals: the conviction of former president Jacques Chirac, the New York court case that wrecked the career of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the Bettencourt investigation, in which former president Nicolas Sarkozy is suspected of party funding violations.

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici wrote to the European Commission at the weekend calling for a greater exchange of banking information across Europe, to fight tax evasion.

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