* Hollande appoints specialised financial prosecution office
* Banks will be forced to publish lists of subsidiaries and
* Moves come after former minister's secret foreign account
(Recasts adding lawyer quote, detail)
By Ingrid Melander and Lionel Laurent
PARIS, April 10 French banks must give more
details on their operations in tax havens, while ministers will
disclose personal assets from next Monday, President Francois
Hollande said in a drive to restore public trust after a tax
Seeking to show he is improving transparency after his
budget minister quit over a secret Swiss bank account, Hollande
pledged to step up the fight against tax havens. He also
appointed a specialised financial prosecution office.
"For the sake of the French people, we aim to ensure that
those who govern them, those they have elected ... are not
getting richer in the course of their mandate," Hollande told a
news conference on Wednesday.
He spoke as neighbouring Luxembourg's prime minister
announced plans to lift bank secrecy rules from 2015 for
European Union citizens who have savings there, bringing it into
line with other EU countries.
Former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac stunned France last
week by acknowledging, a fortnight after quitting his post amid
allegations of tax fraud, that his denials of holding a secret
foreign bank account had been lies.
Cahuzac's resignation came as a major embarrassment for
Hollande, who had promised to upheld high moral standards in
public life while in office. His approval rating is at record
lows as unemployment rages near a 15-year high.
To improve the fight against tax fraud, banks will have to
make public each year a list of their subsidiaries, along with
their activities, staff and turnover, tax paid and any state
"In other words it won't be possible for a bank to hide
transactions carried out in a tax haven," Hollande said.
French banks including BNP Paribas and Societe
Generale currently publish the names, ownership
interest and locations of units in all markets including low-tax
administrations like Bermuda, Luxembourg and Jersey.
Moreover, a draft bank reform law already asks banks to
report revenues and staff on a country-by-country basis,
something bank executives say puts them at a competitive
There are some exceptions. Special purpose vehicles (SPVs),
entities created to fund securitisation deals, are
off-balance-sheet and not consolidated by the banks, and
therefore not declared.
"There is still a question mark on what these measures will
apply to," said lawyer Hubert de Vauplane, a partner at Kramer
Levin Naftalis & Frankel, noting Hollande's announcement was
sufficiently vague to avoid any kind of real change to existing
loopholes. "What do we mean by 'subsidiary'?" he asked.
In public life, an independent authority will monitor
ministers' asset declarations while a special prosecutor's
office will focus on major corruption and fiscal fraud cases.
Opposition lawmakers talked of "diversionary tactics" and
kept pressing for more action.
"It is a diversionary operation that is absolutely not up to
the challenges of the scandal that discredits the government,"
said Christian Jacob, lead lawmaker for the conservative UMP
party in parliament.
(Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Mark John)