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PARIS (Reuters) - Former French budget minister Jerome Cahuzac acknowledged on Tuesday he had held an undisclosed foreign bank account and was placed under formal investigation for allegedly laundering proceeds of tax fraud.
Cahuzac's confirmation that he had around 600,000 euros in a foreign account was a reversal of his past denials that he held a secret Swiss account and dealt a blow to President Francois Hollande, who had promised an irreproachable team of ministers.
Cahuzac had already resigned as budget minister two weeks ago after French prosecutors began investigating accusations by an investigative website that he held an undeclared bank account in Switzerland.
"I was caught in a spiral of lies and I did wrong. I am devastated with remorse," Cahuzac said in his blog.
Separately his lawyer told Reuters that he had been placed under investigation - the final step in France before a suspect is accused of a crime and a court case opened.
Cahuzac said he had confirmed to investigating magistrates that an account existed, although he had not deposited any money there for some 12 years, and said he had given instructions for the funds in it to be moved to his account in Paris.
In a statement, Hollande said that Cahuzac had committed an "unpardonable moral error" by denying the existence of the account and it was now up to the justice system to do its job.
Cahuzac said he had had the foreign bank account for some 20 years, although he did not specify which country it was in.
The affair, which sprung out of a report by French investigative news website Mediapart, comes as Hollande's government battles to convince investors of its fiscal credibility and ability to rein in public finances.
(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and Ingrid Melander; Writing by Catherine Bremer; editing by Mark John)