French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac, accused of having an undisclosed Swiss bank account, has not told the truth to the highest offices of state – the president and the prime minister – nor to Parliament, Mediapart can reveal.
For Mediapart can today disclose that the person who inadvertently recorded the conversation in which Cahuzac is heard discussing his account at UBS in Geneva has personally contacted the office of President François Hollande at the Elysée Palace to confirm the recording’s authenticity. Mediapart also reveals the identity of the man, a barrister and former mayor called Michel Gonelle.
Moreover, in emails seen by Mediapart, Jérôme Cahuzac does not deny the authenticity of the recording, even though he has recently claimed that the person on the tape is “not me”. In the emails Cahuzac even suggests that his comments on the tape were perhaps “a bad joke taken out of context”.
In another development it appears as if the tax authorities in Paris are carrying out detailed checks on the minister's capital assets. His declarations on his tax form in relation to wealth tax (Impôt sur la fortune or ISF in French) have thrown up some apparent discrepancies. These include an under-valuation of a flat in Paris, a misleading declaration concerning a parental loan and non-declaration of expensive watches. Fabrice Arfi investigates.
Mediapart's revelations concerning the budget minister and his undeclared Swiss bank account have reached the highest levels of the state. On the morning of Saturday December 15th the deputy director of President François Hollande's office Alain Zabulon received a phone call. It was from an old acquaintance called Michel Gonelle, a barrister and former centre-right UMP mayor of Villeneuve-sur-Lot in south-west France. Zabulon had once worked as sub-prefect in the département or county of Lot-et-Garonne where Villeneuve-sur-Lot is situated, and knew Gonelle from that time.
Gonelle told his old acquaintance everything; how he was the person who had inadvertently recorded on his voicemail the conversation in late 2000 between Cahuzac and his wealth manager Hervé Dreyfus, in which the former is heard talking about his Swiss bank account. “What bothers me is that I still have an account open with UBS [...] It pisses me off to have an account open there,” says Cahuzac on the recording, before adding in an ironic tone: “UBS is not necessarily the most hidden of banks.”
Gonelle, who lost his position as mayor to Cahuzac in elections in March 2001 just a few months after the recording was made, told Zabulon that having recorded the conversation by chance, he had kept it for many years without knowing what to do with it. Several years ago he had passed a copy of the tape on to a senior judge he knew, but nothing had come of it. Now, finally, he had decided to go to the top – the presidency – and tell the truth.
The barrister told Zabulon that he swore on his “honour” that the recording was genuine and that the identity of the person talking was indeed Jérôme Cahuzac, who at the time was unaware he had been taped. Gonelle told the senior presidential official that he was prepared to write a handwritten and signed letter to that effect to the president in person.
When contacted by Mediapart Gonelle, who had previously denied being the holder of the recording, to protect his family from the inevitable media “storm” that would ensue, said simply: “I don't deny it.” But he declined to say any more. The Elysée has not responded to Mediapart's questions on the subject.