Transparency of public life/fight against tax fraud
Ladies and gentlemen,
Last Wednesday, here, I announced that all the lessons had to be learned from the Cahuzac affair: an affair which comes after so many years when affairs have peppered public life. Too many affairs!
The last one reveals, once again, the need for a relentless battle against the excesses of money, greed and opaque finance. It calls for strong responses which the French are themselves demanding.
Because the Republic’s authority depends on it being exemplary.
Because combating fraud is essential to enforce equality before the taxman.
Because tax havens must be eradicated in Europe and worldwide because this is essential in order to safeguard and protect jobs.
This is the purpose of the guidelines which the Prime Minister presented this morning. I have asked for their swift implementation.
The first of these guidelines is to ensure the transparency of public life.
I say this very clearly: one man’s failure must not bring into disrepute or throw suspicion on elected representatives who dedicate themselves to the public good, without gaining the slightest advantage for themselves.
This is why the rules governing the establishment of the existence, checking and publication of the assets of senior public figures will be totally reviewed.
A high-level authority will be created. Totally independent, it will check the declarations not only of their assets, but also their interests made by government ministers, members of parliament and heads of major local executives and major government departments.
This high-level authority will scrutinize the situation of every minister before and after his/her appointment.
From Monday, all government ministers’ asset declarations will be made public. This will be the case for members of parliament once the bill has been passed.
Finally, the government will propose extending the ban on combining a seat in parliament with the exercise of certain professional activities in order to prevent any conflict of interests.
Transparency! The aim isn’t to expose or impugn; the objective is for the French to be sure that those governing them, those whom they have elected, and those responsible for the public purse don’t get richer in the course of their term of office.
CREATION OF FINANCIAL PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE/CENTRAL OFFICE TO FIGHT FRAUD AND CORRUPTION
The second guideline is to step up the battle against serious economic and financial crime.
So I took the decision, and the Prime Minister set it out this morning, to create a financial prosecutor’s office, i.e. a special prosecutor with nationwide authority who will be able to pursue cases of corruption and serious tax fraud. He/she will conduct and coordinate all investigations relating to these serious offences, which will be good both for concentrating resources and the effectiveness of the procedures.
A central office to fight fraud and corruption will be set up. It will bring together the existing resources in the Interior and Finance Ministries so that, here too, we can have coordination, effectiveness and mobilization. The office will be provided with exceptional procedural and investigative tools.
Should punishment prove apposite, it will be increased in the event of tax fraud. Any member of parliament convicted of this offence may be temporarily or even permanently rendered ineligible for election once the courts have identified and recognized the grounds for the conviction.
Finally, last guideline – and perhaps the one which allows the French to understand the purpose and direction of the policy I want to conduct – we’re going to mobilize against tax havens.
First decision: every year French banks will have to make public the list of all their subsidiaries, all over the world, and country by country. They will have to outline the nature of their activities. In other words, it won’t be possible for a bank to hide transactions carried out in a tax haven. All this information will be public and available to everyone. I want this obligation also to be applied at European Union level, and, in the future, extended to the big corporations.
Every year France will draw up a list of tax havens. She will base this not only on signatures of agreements with countries, but also on facts and the accuracy of the information given. I won’t hesitate to regard as a tax haven any country refusing to cooperate fully with France.
What I want, with other countries in Europe – just recently Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain have joined us –, is an automatic exchange of information on incomes and assets of French nationals abroad and foreigners in France. This has to be the rule in Europe so we can put an end to bank secrecy and the concealment of assets.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I realize the gravity of what we have seen. I know how much the French want a change in this sad succession of affairs, which sullies the very image of the Republic, our country and political life for which I have a high regard.
So I want all these provisions implemented as soon as possible. The bills will be presented to the Council of Ministers on 24 April and then submitted to parliament. These bills will in fact complement the bill on strengthening the independence of the courts – I’m glad to say that the courts are independent, that they aren’t restrained, aren’t influenced by anyone or anything, and haven’t been for the past 10 months – and also the protection of journalists’ sources – since I’m glad to say that the press is doing its job.
I want the broadest possible consensus for these guidelines, this political will, this exemplary republic. It’s in everyone’s interest: that of all those who governed yesterday, those who are governing today and those who will be called on to govern tomorrow. It’s in France’s interest because we must be exemplary, even if it means being the first to implement these guidelines and these policies.
Finally, I want Europe to realize that it must now do everything it can – and it’s ready to – so that with the Banking Union we can put an end to practices which should never have existed.
Thank you. I’m now ready to answer your questions./.