French officials resign amid spending scandals
Two members of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government quit their jobs Sunday after a succession of scandals over lavish spending.
Christian Blanc, secretary of state for the greater Paris area, who ran up a $15,000 Cuban cigar bill charged to taxpayers, and Alain Joyandet, secretary of state for overseas development, who hired a private jet at a cost of $143,000 for an official trip to the Caribbean, submitted their resignations Sunday night.
Joyandet had also come under increasing fire over claims that he broke planning laws to gain a permit for an extension to his house in the Mediterranean resort of Saint-Tropez. On his blog, Joyandet wrote: “As a man of honor, I cannot accept being the victim of allegations. After much thought, I have decided to leave the government.”
He added: “Not one euro of public money was used toward my personal wealth or that of my close family.”
The two ministers submitted their resignations to Sarkozy, who accepted them without any statement.
As French citizens feel the pinch of the world economic crisis, the nation is reeling from a series of stories over abuses of perks by lawmakers. Last Monday, Sarkozy ordered a crackdown on government perks by restricting the use of official planes, cars, staffs and even office equipment.
Many here who are being asked to work longer, harder and, in some cases, for less money are dismayed by the examples of luxury and privilege enjoyed by their leaders.
The ministerial resignations came as the French government struggled to contain another crisis.
Eric Woerth, the labor minister, is under fire over his links to France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, who was recently accused of tax evasion.
Allegations that Bettencourt hid money in Swiss bank accounts came as Woerth was forced to acknowledge that his wife worked for a firm managing the cosmetics billionaire’s finances. So far, Woerth has fought off calls for his resignation.
Willsher is a special correspondent.