Ministers' wealth list to expose France's 'caviar left'


List of ministers' assets could set off a storm on Monday, revealing handful of millionaires in Socialist government as nation endures spending cuts.

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An inventory of French ministers' assets could set off a storm when it goes public on Monday, exposing a handful of millionaires in the Socialist government as the nation endures spending cuts and rampant unemployment, reports the Chicago Tribune.

For the first time in France, President Francois Hollande is publishing a list of bank deposits and property held by all 38 ministers as he scrambles to stem public fury over his ex-budget minister's disclosure he lied about a secret Swiss bank account.

While the register will exclude their stakes in companies, it could still reveal enough riches to trigger resentment of the "caviar left" in a country with a cultural distaste of ostentatious wealth.

Topping the list could be Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the oldest and most experienced of Hollande's ministers, but also the richest, with a fortune estimated in the millions euros, much of it in the form of inherited works of art.

"We're taking a risk. It's the risk of transparency," acknowledged a senior government official, adding with a sigh: "This country has a very particular relationship with money."

Whereas public officials in dozens of countries including the United States routinely publish their tax returns, politicians' finances are considered a private matter in France.

Hollande, who pleased the grass-roots left by declaring in 2007 that he disliked rich people, wants to pass a law later in April forcing parliamentarians to also declare their wealth.

The gamble is that rather than calm the scandal over Jerome Cahuzac, the budget minister who quit in disgrace last month and is now under investigation for tax fraud, the asset inventory could trigger calls for more heads to roll.

"There will be a before and an after," Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Thursday after meeting lawmakers opposed to publishing their assets.