Latest update: 12/11/2012
Is French actor Gerard Depardieu heading for tax exile?
After France’s richest man Bernard Arnault sparked fears he was seeking tax exile after applying for Belgian citizenship, famed French actor Gerard Depardieu has stoked similar speculation after reportedly buying a house in Belgium.
By FRANCE 24 (text)
A report in a Belgian newspaper has triggered speculation in France that famed actor Gerard Depardieu is preparing to depart his native country in search of better financial climes.
Le Soir reported on Thursday that 63-year-old Depardieu, who became a household name outside France for his lead role in the 1990 film ‘Green Card’, has bought a house in the Belgium village of Nechin, home to many French tax exiles.
The newspaper said Depardieu visited the nearby town Estaimpus on Monday to put pen to paper on the purchase of a property.
According to France’s Le Point magazine no less than 27 percent of Nechin’s inhabitants are French, many of whom are wealthy families who made the move over the border to keep their riches out of the grasp of the notorious French tax man.
Belgium provides an attractive option for wealthy French citizens because, unlike France, it does not have a wealth tax and inheritance rules are also more favourable.
Wealthy fleeing abroad
The subject of the country’s wealthy moving abroad to avoid the tax man has long been a fiery issue in France, and has only been heightened by the proposed 75 percent tax rate for top earners, due to be introduced in 2013.
Earlier this year, the country’s richest man Bernard Arnault caused uproar when it emerged he had applied for Belgian citizenship. Despite Arnault insisting that his application for a Belgian passport was not for financial gain, he came in for heavy criticism from all quarters including President Francois Hollande.
One of Depardieu’s possible future neighbours in Nechin would be the Mulliez family, who own the popular French chain stores Auchan and Decathlon, and have an estimated personal wealth of 18 billion euros.
If Depardieu is planning a move, he can expect a negative reaction in France but also from his well-heeled new neighbours in Belgium.
Depardieu is one of France's best known actors but has cut an increasingly troubled figure in recent years, regularly seeming to be under the influence of alcohol at public appearances.
In 2005, he head-butted a photographer taking pictures of him in the Italian city of Florence, and last year he generated global headlines after urinating in a bottle during a Paris-Dublin flight after being denied access to the toilets because the plane was taking off.
Earlier this year he also admitted punching a motorist in a road rage incident after he was knocked off his scooter.
When contacted by France's Europe 1 radio and questioned over Le Soir's story, France’s famous bad boy Depardieu reportedly became angry but did not deny the report.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)