x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Hollande's Morocco trip clouded by tax scandal

French president arrives in Morocco fresh from battling a tax-fraud scandal that risks overshadowing his landmark visit to the former French colony.

CASABLANCA, Morocco // The French president, Francois Hollande, arrived in Morocco yesterday fresh from battling a tax-fraud scandal that risks overshadowing his landmark visit to the former French colony.

Mr Hollande, who was welcomed by King Mohammed VI in Casablanca, has sought to limit the fallout from the scandal, insisting that the former budget minister, Jerome Cahuzac, who has been charged in a tax-fraud probe, "did not benefit from any protection".

The president has condemned Mr Cahuzac's actions, saying he had committed an "unforgivable moral error" and denying any knowledge of a secret foreign account belonging to a former minister was once responsible for tackling tax evasion.

On the eve of Mr Hollande's visit, Mr Cahuzac was charged with "laundering the proceeds of tax fraud" after finally admitting he had a foreign bank account for about 20 years.

After greeting crowds yesterday in Casablanca, Morocco's economic capital, Mr Hollande was set to hold talks with the king and speak to the city's French community.

Morocco was upset that the president chose to visit its arch-north African rival Algeria on his first visit to the French-speaking region three months ago.

But relations have improved, with Paris has described them as "intense and fluid," stressing Hollande's good rapport with the king.