In a startling about-turn after months of angry
denials, former French budget minister Jerome Cahuzac admitted
Tuesday he had dodged tax authorities for years.
Cahuzac, who up until three weeks ago was responsible for enforcing a bout of belt-tightening, admitted in his blog that he had stashed money in a secret foreign account for 20 years.
"I was caught in a spiral of lies and went astray. I am ravaged by remorse," Cahuzac said, explaining his previous denials of the allegations, which first surfaced in December.
"To think that I could avoid confronting a past that I wanted to consider as bygone was an unspeakable mistake," he added, after coming clean to two investigating magistrates.
Shortly afterwards, his lawyer said Cahuzac had been charged with tax fraud.
The 60-year-old former plastic surgeon was one of the best performers in President Francois Hollande's administration until his resignation on March 19.
Cahuzac stepped down after prosecutors announced they were investigating him over a report by Mediapart news site that he had a secret Swiss bank account until 2010. The allegations embarrassed the government, which has taken a tough line with tax exiles. Cahuzac persistently denied the allegations, telling parliament: "I don't have, I never have had, accounts abroad."
Reacting to his confession, Hollande said Cahuzac had committed an "unforgivable moral mistake" by lying to the country.
Cahuzac later apologized to Hollande, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and his former cabinet colleagues for the "damage that I caused them."
He said he had given instructions for the balance on the account - about 600,000 euros (770,000 dollars) - to be transferred to his Paris account.
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