Latest blog articles
Verdict due for French ex-minister 'rooted in fraud'
Paris (AFP) - Former French budget minister Jerome Cahuzac will on Thursday learn the verdict in his stormy tax fraud trial in which he was accused of hiding millions abroad while leading a crackdown on tax dodgers at home.
The 64-year-old former rising star in the Socialist Party was also accused of under-declaring the value of his fortune when he took up his ministerial post in 2012 with a remit that included cracking down on tax evasion.
Prosecutors have called for a three-year jail term and a two-year sentence for his co-defendant and ex-wife, dermatologist Patricia Menard.
The pair, who ran a hair transplant clinic with a client list featuring members of Paris's high society, have already paid back taxes and penalties totalling some 2.5 million euros ($2.8 million).
In closing arguments in the trial in September, Cahuzac's defence lawyer Jean Veil noted his client had already made financial amends and said he had "no desire to see my taxes going towards maintaining Jerome Cahuzac" in jail.
But prosecutor Jean-Marc Toublanc said Cahuzac's family life "was rooted in fraud for 20 years".
Cahuzac, a trained plastic surgeon, told the court that he stashed funds offshore to maintain his family's standard of living -- which included buying apartments for the children in London and Paris and paying for holidays in Mauritius.
- Like crime novel -
The story of the fraud, allegedly perpetrated between 1992 and 2013, reads like a cross between a cheap airport novel and an international financial crime manual.
In one episode, Cahuzac, using the codename "Birdie", allegedly received two cash payments of 10,000 euros on the streets of Paris.
The couple used a Royal Bank of Scotland account in the Isle of Man, an offshore financial centre in the Irish Sea, to channel cheques from English hair transplant clients.
As their marriage began to falter, Menard also opened an account in Switzerland.
Menard's lawyer Sebastien Schapira said the money was "that of fraud, but initially it was that of her work, earned day after day, hour after hour, hair by hair".
He described Menard as "naive", an unwitting accomplice who was "swept up" in the fraud before confessing to it in December 2013.
She testified that the couple had become locked in a "spiral" of wrongdoing.
"I'm extremely ashamed of having done all that," she said.
The scandal was the first of a series that have tarnished Francois Hollande's presidency and prompted him to order his ministers to disclose their personal wealth, a first in France, where the wealth of public officials had long been considered a private matter.
Cahuzac initially denied the allegations and sued the Mediapart news website that broke the story in 2012.
Footage of the minister lying to parliament was repeated in an endless loop on French media after he finally confessed in April 2013, "consumed by remorse", to holding a Swiss bank account.
But by the end of the trial, Cahuzac had repeatedly admitted his "inexcusable wrongdoing".
Global warming's fingerprints seen in 24 weird weather cases
WASHINGTON (AP) — A new scientific report finds man-made climate change played some role in two dozen extreme weather events last year but not in a few other weird weather instances around the world.An annual report released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found climate change was a factor, however small or large, in 24 of 30 strange weather events. They include 11 cases of high heat, as well as unusual winter sunshine in the United Kingdom, Alaskan wildfires and… chat_bubble_outline Read More...
Winter Olympics: South Korea builds it but will fans come?
Pyeongchang (South Korea) (AFP) - Across the road from the pentagonal arena which will host South Korea's Winter Olympics opening ceremony a year from Thursday, bundles of dead fish dangle from a wooden frame outside Lee Yong-Oon's shop.Most venues for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games are virtually finished and the organisers are about to launch a domestic and international marketing blitz, touting Korean technology, culture and food as they seek to persuade sports fans from around the world to make… chat_bubble_outline Read More...
Taiwan paper plant red-flagged
The $220 million Dai Duong paper plant project, invested by the Taiwanese company Chang Yang Holding Ltd. in the southern province of Tien Giang, may be scrapped due to environmental concerns. Environmental pollution is becoming a growing concern for the public, authorities, and experts alike. The Light Industry Department, which helps the Ministry of Industry and Trade regulate paper, leather, garment, and other light industries, has just completed a document containing issues related to the… chat_bubble_outline Read More...
Vietnam attracts over $11 billion FDI in first half of 2016
The total foreign direct investment (FDI) registered in Vietnam in the first half of the year reached more than 11.2 billion USD, the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) said. Medicines are produced at German-invested B. Braun Vietnam in Hanoi’s Thanh Oai Industrial Complex. This is a significant surge of 105 percent against the same period last year. Of the total, 7.5 billion USD came from 1,145 newly licensed projects, representing a yearly increase of 95 percent in capital and 56 percent in the… chat_bubble_outline Read More...
No pressure over ATP top ranking, Andy Murray says
Paris (AFP) - Andy Murray can depose Novak Djokovic as world number one on Saturday but the British star insists he won't let the pressure of the historic occasion knock him off course.The 29-year-old Wimbledon and Olympic champion will take over top spot in the rankings if he defeats Canada's Milos Raonic in the Paris Masters semi-finals.His path opened up on Friday after he saved seven set points in an extraordinary opening tie-break before clinching a 7-6 (11/9), 7-5 win over Tomas Berdych… chat_bubble_outline Read More...