For 1st time, French leaders make financial data public

PARIS — Rich ministers and poor — all 38 members of President Francois Hollande’s government — were required to declare their assets in public Monday for the first time.

The disclosures marked a historical departure for French politics, which has a long, notorious tradition of under-the-table campaign financing and polite silence on personal wealth often acquired on modest government salaries.

‘‘This is a revolution for France,’’ said Maurice Szafran, editor of Marianne magazine.


The wealthiest member of France’s Socialist government, the French people learned, is Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who inherited a $7.8 million fortune from his family’s trade in art and antiques. But Michele Delaunay, minister for the aged, also disclosed $7 million, mostly in inherited real estate.

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The tradition of winking at financial sleight of hand has become increasingly unacceptable in the public eye during the past 20 years, and prosecutors have pursued some officials for misuse of public funds.

Former leader Jacques Chirac, for instance, was tried for paying fictional employees when he was mayor of Paris, and former president Nicolas Sarkozy is charged with taking advantage of a rich heiress to raise campaign funds.

Against that background, the revelations Monday, although they would be commonplace in the United States and many European countries, were breathlessly detailed on France’s television stations and online news organizations as soon as they were posted, duly audited, on France’s website.

Hollande’s order marked the first step in a ‘‘morality in politics’’ program decreed after former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac admitted two weeks ago that he had a secret Swiss bank account, despite months of lies to the contrary.


Cahuzac, a wealthy plastic surgeon specializing in hair implants, was immediately sacked and expelled from the Socialist Party.

Hollande said he had been lied to along with the rest of the country. But the scandal nevertheless flooded his government, which already was under attack for its handling of a grave economic slowdown.

Seeking to deflect the criticism, Hollande decreed not only that his ministers would have to detail their holdings, but also that he would propose a law this month requiring members of Parliament and other high officials to do the same. At the same time, he said, the government would intensify its war on tax evasion and appoint a special prosecutor to investigate economic crimes.

Previous rules required members of Parliament to report their assets to a parliamentary authority that, in principle, was to monitor any enrichment while in office.