Tax-avoiding French minister pleads red-tape 'phobia'

Tax-avoiding French minister pleads red-tape 'phobia'

PARIS - A junior French minister forced to quit after it emerged he had not paid income taxes for three years has explained that his omission resulted from a phobia of France's mass of bureaucracy.

Thomas Thevenoud, who last week resigned from his junior trade minister post in President Francois Hollande's government barely nine days after his appointment in a reshuffle, denied deliberate fraud and said he has since paid all his dues.

Thevenoud, 40, who has since also acknowledged that he also stacked up hefty rent arrears on his Parisian apartment, told Wednesday's edition of satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine that he suffered from a syndrome called "administrative phobia".

Far from winning him sympathy, the assertion turned Thevenoud - already been kicked out of the ruling Socialist Party - into a laughing stock. One radio station on Wednesday brought on a psychologist to confirm no such phobia existed.

Trying to limit the political damage of the affair before a vote of confidence in the new government next Tuesday, Thierry Mandon, the minister in charge of reforming the state, tweeted that "the recent discovery of administrative phobia can only encourage us to press on with efforts to simplify".

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