By Chine Labbé
PARIS (Reuters) – A former minister who led a French government crackdown on tax evasion was sentenced to three years in jail on Thursday for hiding an offshore bank account of his own, in a scandal that deeply embarrassed President Francois Hollande.
A Paris court found Jerome Cahuzac, a cosmetic surgeon by trade who was made budget minister when Hollande won power in 2012, guilty of tax fraud and money laundering.
The 64-year-old, stonefaced, left the courthouse without commenting. His lawyer, Jean Veil, said he would lodge an appeal to seek a softer sentence. “Three years is too heavy,” he said.
The verdict marks the end of a saga that shocked France and shook Hollande, who promised as he took power that his government would be beyond reproach after years of corruption accusations that dogged his predecessors.
Cahuzac, who specialized in hair transplants and consultancy work for drugs companies before becoming a minister, resigned in disgrace in 2013 when he admitted having held an undeclared account over 20 years, first in Switzerland and later in Singapore.
Prior to that he had repeatedly denied the existence of such an account, once in particularly dramatic fashion in a declaration in the lower house of parliament.
After ultimately admitting he had lied, Cahuzac, now 64, was also expelled from the Socialist Party, of which he been a member since the 1970s.
Hollande, whose term ends in May 2017 and who said last week he would not seek a second one, at the time condemned what he called an unforgivable moral error.
Reyl bank of Geneva was also fined 1.875 million euros ($2.02 million) for its part in the affair.
(Reporting By Chine Labbe and Simon Carraud; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Andrew Callus)