Francois Hollande has been forced to deny offering any "protection" to his former tax-fraud tsar amid claims that the French president knew as early as December that Jerome Cahuzac was probably guilty of tax evasion.
The former budget minister's shock confession on Tuesday that he had a secret foreign bank account for more than 20 years containing €600,000 has plunged the Socialist government into crisis.
Members of the opposition Right have called for the resignation of both Jean-Marc Ayrault, the prime minister, and Pierre Moscovici, the finance minister, as well as a major reshuffle.
Some 86pc of French people said in a survey that the scandal was "grave", with six in 10 saying it had been badly handled.
Trying to contain the widening firestorm, Mr Hollande vowed to introduce a law on the "publication and control" of the wealth of ministers.
The announcement failed to stem a rising tide of questions over when and how he and his government became aware of the guilt of the minister.
Mr Hollande made no specific mention yesterday of when he found out, simply saying Mr Cahuzac had committed an "unpardonable fault and an outrage to the republic" by lying for four months to the Elysee and the National Assembly.
Mr Cahuzac (60), previously a plastic surgeon, was sacked last month after the state prosecutor announced that the voice in a recorded telephone conversation from 2000, admitting ownership of an illegal, Swiss account, appeared to be his.
Respected newspaper 'Le Canard' now alleges, citing police and political sources, that Mr Hollande was informed by his interior minister in December that the voice on the tape was "likely" that of Mr Cahuzac. (© Daily Telegraph, London)