Francois Hollande faces pressure over pal's Caymans investment

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 April, 2013, 3:52am


Francois Hollande faced more pressure after it emerged that a close friend and treasurer for his presidential election campaign invested in offshore businesses in the Cayman Islands.

Jean-Jacques Augier, a publisher who studied with the Socialist president at the elite ENA management school, featured in records leaked from Britain's offshore financial industry.

Augier, 59, who once worked as an inspector of finances in France, confirmed the investments and said nothing was illegal. But the revelation comes at a bad time for Hollande, whose government is in crisis following the shock admission by Jerome Cahuzac, the former budget minister and tax tsar, that he had hidden €600,000 (HK$597,200) in a secret account and repeatedly lied about it.

Hollande was elected on promises to crack down on those who move their money abroad, toughen rules on tax havens, make the world of finance more transparent and ensure the wealthy contribute a larger share to restoring the crisis-hit French economy.

Augier, a book and magazine publisher, launched a Caymans-based distributor in China in 2005, with a 25 per cent shareholding granted to a British Virgin Islands company.

Augier told French newspaper Le Monde he did not have "either a personal bank account in the Caymans or any personal direct investment in that territory". He said he invested in the company through a holding that runs all his Chinese business interests. "Nothing is illegal."

Asked about a second offshore Caymans entity, set up in 2008-09 and then moved to Hong Kong during the financial crisis just as the G20 was declaring war on tax havens, Augier did not give details. "Perhaps I lacked prudence," he told Le Monde. He said his operations were all declared.