French prosecutors urge jail for tax-dodging ex-minister

French prosecutors asked a court to uphold the three-year, tax-fraud sentence of former Socialist budget minister Jerome Cahuzac who stashed hundreds of thousands of euros in a Swiss bank account

French prosecutors on Tuesday asked a court to uphold the three-year, tax-fraud sentence of a former Socialist budget minister who stashed hundreds of thousands of euros in a Swiss bank account.

Jerome Cahuzac was forced to resign from government in 2013 after it emerged that that he had been squirreling away undeclared cash from his lucrative Parisian hair transplant clinic.

The revelations caused severe embarrassment to then president Francois Hollande, who had appointed Cahuzac to crack down on tax cheats.

Pressed on the allegations, Cahuzac lied both to Hollande and parliament before finally coming clean.

In the wake of the scandal France set up an anti-corruption agency and a national office to prosecute financial crimes.

In 2016, a court jailed Cahuzac for three years for tax fraud and barred him from holding elected office for five years.

The 65-year former political heavy-hitter appealed his sentence, prompting a retrial.

Addressing the defendant on Tuesday the public prosecutor said Cahuzac's trial was his "greatest contribution" to the fight against tax fraud.

"Impunity is thinking that the law is only for others," he said.

If the appeal court returns a lighter sentence of two years or less, Cahuzac will likely not have to spend time behind bars and instead do community service.

The court could, on the other hand, increase his sentence to up to five years in prison and a 375,000 euro ($460,000) fine, or follow the prosecutor's recommendations by keeping it unchanged.

During his 2016 trial Cahuzac told the court he hid funds offshore to maintain his family's standard of living, which included apartments for his children in London and Paris and to pay for holidays in Mauritius.

His ex-wife Patricia Menard, who held an account in the Isle of Man that was also used to hide money, was sentenced to two years in prison.

Cahuzac's bank in Geneva, Reyl, was fined 1.9 million euros and its boss Francois Reyl was handed a one-year suspended jail term and a 375,000 euro fine for helping Cahuzac move his funds to offshore companies.

Neither Menard, the bank nor Reyl appeared their sentences.