PARIS French prosecutors will open a preliminary investigation into Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac over allegations that he had a secret bank account in Switzerland, the Paris prosecutor's office said on Tuesday.
Cahuzac, who is leading a government crackdown on tax evasion, has vigorously denied a report by French investigative news website Mediapart that he held an undisclosed account at Swiss bank UBS until the start of 2010.
The prosecutor's office said it had no option but to open an inquiry immediately given the sensitivity of the allegations and the time it would take to investigate them.
"The Paris prosecutor has as a result decided to open a preliminary investigation for tax fraud," it said in a statement.
Mediapart followed up on its first report by publishing a recording of a telephone call from 2000 in which a male voice it said belonged to Cahuzac mentions an account he held at UBS.
Cahuzac has filed legal complaints against the website and repeated his denial of the allegations on France 2 television on Monday evening. He said the voice in the recording was not his.
(Reporting by John Irish, Sophie Louet and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by Catherine Bremer and Tom Pfeiffer)