France checks ministers’ taxes after Swiss bank report

PARIS (Reuters) – French tax authorities said they were carrying out a “routine” examination of government members’ personal finances and denied a report that Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac was being singled out for a specific probe.

The statement was issued through Cahuzac’s ministry amid weekend media reports that President Francois Hollande could be considering a government reshuffle, seven months after his May election victory against Nicolas Sarkozy.

Cahuzac, who is leading an official crackdown on tax evasion, has vigorously denied reports by Mediapart that he held a Swiss bank account with UBS (UBSN.VX) until 2010 and is suing the investigative news website for libel.

Such allegations are particularly sensitive at a time when the government has sharply increased income tax for the highest earners and heaped criticism on wealthy individuals who have sought to shift their tax base abroad.

The budget minister is at risk of losing his portfolio in an imminent shake-up, newspapers Le Parisien and Le Journal du Dimanche both reported on Sunday, citing unidentified government sources.

But Cahuzac’s ministry denied a new Mediapart report on Friday that its tax inspectors were investigating his own French assets. The minister had ordered checks on all government members as standard procedure, it said.

“As is routine with each new government, the budget minister has asked the public finances directorate to examine the tax situation of the government’s members,” the ministry said in a statement issued late on Saturday.

“It is this procedure that is under way, with the aim of ensuring that the position of every government member is irreproachable,” it said. “No inspection or investigation is in progress with regard to any government member.”

(Reporting by Laurence Frost and Gerard Bon; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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