- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2005

PARIS — The embattled finance minister of France resigned yesterday after accusations he used government money to rent an $18,500-a-month apartment for his family while trying to control public spending as a Cabinet member.

Herve Gaymard’s announcement that he was stepping down came just hours before a planned TV appearance to answer questions about the scandal that has embarrassed President Jacques Chirac’s government.

“I am aware that I committed blunders and, above all, a serious error of judgment regarding the conditions of my official lodgings,” Mr. Gaymard said. “I have decided to submit my resignation.”

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin accepted the resignation.

The 44-year-old Mr. Gaymard, who took over the Finaance Ministry in November, was first criticized last week when the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine revealed that he, his wife and eight children were living in a duplex paid for by the government.



The revelations were embarrassing not least because the government has been seeking to control public spending and an unemployment rate that reached 10 percent in January for the first time in five years.

Although Mr. Gaymard said he would quickly leave the luxury apartment, he was tripped up by subsequent contradictory statements.

Mr. Gaymard told Paris Match magazine, “I have always lived humbly. I don’t have money.

“Obviously, if I weren’t the son of a shoemaker and shoe salesman but a ‘grand bourgeois,’ I wouldn’t have a housing problem. I would own my own apartment and there wouldn’t be this affair.”

But other media reports revealed that Mr. Gaymard already owned a large four-bedroom Paris apartment — rented out for $3,050 a month — as well as other property.

The left-leaning daily Liberation said yesterday that the Gaymards have a house, two small apartments and a garage in his native Alpine Savoie region and another house in Brittany overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Mr. Gaymard said he would honor his earlier pledge to repay the government for the costs of moving into and refurbishing the expensive duplex near the Champs Elysees. As soon as the scandal erupted last week, Mr. Gaymard said he would move out.

He noted that “my family has for several days been subjected to real harassment.”

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