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Disgraced French ex-minister gives up parliament seat

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

France's disgraced former budget minister, who was this month charged with tax fraud, said Tuesday he would be quitting parliament, and would probably not go back to politics.

Jerome Cahuzac was charged with tax fraud after admitting to hiding 600,000 euros ($790,000) in a foreign bank account, prompting a scandal that has seen the shaken Socialist government battle to try and restore confidence.

"I have decided to resign from this mandate," he said in a televised interview on BFMTV, referring to the lower house seat that he held before becoming budget minister after Francois Hollande was elected president last year.

"The moral mistake does not allow me to stay on as member of parliament," he said.

Under French law, a minister that leaves the government -- by resigning or due to a reshuffle -- can get his seat back in the lower house within one month. Cahuzac had until Friday to make his decision.

In the interview -- his first televised appearance since the scandal erupted on April 2 -- Cahuzac also said he thought it was "extremely improbable" that he would return to politics.

He acknowledged once again that he held 600,000 euros in his foreign bank account, but denied media reports that he had tried to invest 15 million euros in a Swiss fund.

The existence of Cahuzac's secret bank account was revealed in December by news website Mediapart, but for months, he vociferously denied the allegations to the president, media and to parliament -- even after resigning in March.

Then on April 2, Cahuzac -- who as budget minister was in charge of fighting tax evasion -- finally confessed to investigators probing the allegations.

His shock revelation rattled Hollande and his administration, and the government has since scrambled to contain the scandal, announcing a series of measures aimed at ensuring better transparency among politicians.

On Monday, all 38 ministers in Hollande's cabinet were ordered to publicly disclose their personal wealth -- a first in France -- and the government will attempt to have the disclosure rule extended to parliamentarians in a bill to be introduced on April 24.

The government has also announced plans to fight tax evasion.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130416/disgraced-french-ex-minister-gives-parliament-seat