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Last Updated: Friday, 25 February, 2005, 20:20 GMT
French minister quits in flat row
Herve Gaymard
Mr Gaymard said he did not have money
France's finance minister has resigned over an embarrassing row over the cost of his state-funded flat.

Herve Gaymard said he had made a "serious error of judgement" and his resignation was accepted by Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

The minister, his wife Clara and eight children had been living in the luxury Paris flat at a cost to the taxpayer of 14,000 euros (9,000) a month.

A newspaper has reported that he owns five properties across France.

Thierry Breton - until now chief executive of France Telecom - has been appointed to succeed Mr Gaymard as finance minister.

'Humble lifestyle'

Speaking on French television news on Friday night, Mr Gaymard said: "I've made mistakes. I'll take the consequences."

But he said that the scandal had been blown out of proportion.

In his resignation statement, he said he was aware of having been tactless and "of committing a serious error of judgement regarding my official lodgings".

Mr Gaymard, 44, said he would pay back "any expenses incurred" and would continue to try to serve his country as best he could.

He and his family had been subjected to "harassment for several days", he added.

Herve Gaymard's former Paris flat
Mr Gaymard's family lived in a flat in the centre of Paris

The satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine revealed last week that Mr Gaymard's rent was being paid for by the government.

Mr Gaymard quickly announced that he and his family would move out.

In an earlier interview with Paris Match magazine, Mr Gaymard said he always lived humbly.

"I don't have money," he said.

"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."

However, a report published in the centre-left daily newspaper Liberation revealed that he owns two houses, two flats and a garage outside Paris, as well as a luxury flat in the capital which he rents out for 2,300 euros ($3,032, 1,584) a month.

The paper also reported that Mr Gaymard pays France's special wealth tax, which applies to people with assets in excess of 720,000 euros ($949,183, 495,981).

Mr Gaymard took over the crucial economy portfolio only three months ago.

The government of must now find a successor at a time when the French economy is in urgent need of reform, says the BBC's Alan Little in Paris.


SEE ALSO:
French minister in flat scandal
17 Feb 05 |  Europe


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