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Economy

Millionaire minister underestimates wealth in French government transparency drive

media French cabinet minister Jean-Marie Le Guen in RFI's studios RFI

French government minister Jean-Marie Le Guen has been taken to task by the government’s watchdog for underestimating how much he was worth in the first-ever public declaration of cabinet members’ wealth. Seven of his Socialist colleagues are millionaires.

The government’s transparency watchdog, the HATVP, ordered Le Guen, who is responsible for the cabinet’s relations with parliament, to redraft his wealth declaration, saying that he had underestimated the worth of property and real estate compared to their market value.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

The Mediapart website claimed on Thursday that Le Guen’s first submission was 700,000 euros below the real value of his property and income and that he would be facing bills for unpaid tax for 50,000 euros for 2013 alone.

Le Guen inisists that he has not had a tax reassessment and told Le Monde newspaper on Friday that he had accepted the HATVP’s figures in his final declaration.

That puts him number two in the government wealth league with a total wealth of 3,291,324 euros.

The richest cabinet member is Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, who is worth a cool 5,229,003 euros, including a Paris apartment bought for 2.7 million euros in 2008, life insurance worth 529,439 euros and an art and antiques collection worth 340,000 euros.

Fabius’s son, Thomas, was the target of an investigation for fraud and money-laundering last year after he bought a seven-million-euro Paris apartment despite declaring no income at all with the tax authorities.

Dossier: The Cahuzac affair

Five other ministers – André Vallini at territorial reform, Michel Sapin at finance, Ségolène Royal at ecology, Marisol Touraine at health and budget boss Christian Eckert – are also millionaires.

Only Women’s Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem had no real estate or investments to declare.

Her husband, Boris Vallaud, works in the office of Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg.
Most of the cabinet have been professional politicians for at least the last five years and few have worked in the private sector.

The declarations – the first-ever time that a French cabinet has made its collective wealth public – arose from a pledge of more transparency after the resignation of budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac, who was found to have held a secret Swiss bank account.
 

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