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French Ex-minister Admits Lying About Bank Account

"With sadness and dismay, I learn the truth. This truth is cruel: Jerome Cahuzac lied," Ayrault said. "He acknowledged holding an undeclared bank account abroad. He has just made these facts public â¿¿ these facts are serious ... Now, Jerome Cahuzac is alone in the face of his responsibilities. He must now answer to the justice system."

When the scandal first broke, Cahuzac said solemnly in the National Assembly: "I never had a foreign account, not now, not before. I deny these accusations." But in the blog posting Tuesday, a far less combative Cahuzac wrote: "I was caught in a spiral of lie and I lost my way. I am devastated with remorse."

The scandal couldn't have come at a worse time for Hollande, whose poll numbers have sunk in recent months, largely over concerns about his handling of France's gloomy economic picture and double-digit jobless rate. He had surged to victory over conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential race in May, in part by pledging greater ethics in government: Sarkozy's own budget minister, Eric Woerth, had resigned in another scandal.

Cahuzac had garnered Hollande's trust as a point man to help boost tax revenues as France battles a lackluster economy and growing budget deficit.

Cahuzac, a sharp-speaking former hair-transplant specialist, had made his name as budget minister by singling out corporate multinational tax dodgers, citizens who live abroad to avoid taxes, and those within France who stash money in overseas accounts. The issue struck a chord among many French as the government looks for ways to trim a swollen budget deficit.

Paris prosecutors opened a judicial investigation last month into a case of alleged laundering of money gained through tax fraud centering on Cahuzac, though investigators had not yet turned up enough evidence to charge him by name. That prompted Cahuzac's resignation â¿¿ making him the first minister to leave the 10-month-old Socialist government.

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