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France

French ex-budget minister jailed for tax fraud

media Jérôme Cahuzac after sentence was pronounced on Tuesday Eric FEFERBERG / AFP

Former French government minister Jérôme Cahuzac has been sentenced to two years in jail and two years suspended by a Paris appeal court, despite calls from prosecutors to maintain an initial sentence of three years for tax fraud and money laundering.

Cahuzac's case was the biggest scandal of Socialist François Hollande's 2012-17 presidency.

Charged with balancing the books and fighting tax evasion, he was found to have hidden 15 million euros in a Swiss bank account.

After at first denying the accusation, he eventually resigned and wound up in court.In 2016 a court sentenced him to three years in jail.

When he appealed, prosecutors opposed any reduction of the term, arguing that his crime was "of exceptional gravity".

In court he said he was "frightened of going to prison" and his lawyer, Eric Dupond-Moretti claimed he was "a broken man" who might commit suicide.

On Tuesday the appeal court reduced his sentence to two years, with two years suspended and a 300,000-euro fine.

Cahuzac "does not deserve prison", Dupond-Moretti declared after the verdict, adding that he would call for a reduction of the sentence.

French law allows for jail sentences of two years or less to be reduced to non-custodial ones.

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