Putin says Russian passport for Depardieu 'a done deal'
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Soon-to-be tax exile Gérard Depardieu can have a Russian passport if he wants it, the country’s President Vladimir Putin said after the French film star announced he would return his French one.
French actor Gérard Depardieu, under fierce criticism for going into self-imposed tax exile in Belgium, would be more than welcome in Russia, the country’s President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
“If Gérard really wants a residency permit or a Russian passport, it’s a done deal,” Putin said at a press conference. “We have very friendly relations [with Depardieu], but I know that deep down he feels French.”
The scandal surrounding Depardieu’s move to a Belgian village a stone’s throw from the French border escalated earlier in December when French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described the actor’s decision as “pathetic”.
In an open letter last Sunday the Cyrano de Bergerac star said he could not bear the “insult” and would be returning his French passport.
He also claimed that he had paid 85% tax in the last year, amid news that he had put his Paris mansion on the market for a reported 50 million euros.
Putin said he was certain the French authorities “didn’t want to annoy” one of France’s biggest film stars and said the spat between Depardieu and Ayrault was “unfortunate”.
Calls of support for the star
The controversy surrounding Depardieu’s tax exile has sparked a heated debate in France, where critics point out that the film industry, including its best known actors, have long benefited from generous state funding.
Fellow film star Catherine Deneuve leapt to Depardieu’s defence on Friday in a letter to left-leaning daily Liberation, in which she slammed Ayrault’s “pathetic” remark as “beneath the dignity of a statesman”.
The day before, Depardieu’s daughter Roxanne had also used the press to defend her father.
In a letter to weekly magazine Le Point, she said: “He has been reviled as if he were a serious criminal. But he is a man who deserves respect, not insults. He doesn’t deserve this.
“In many countries he represents French cinema, and for other film stars he is the very image of France, a man who likes to live well, eat, drink and laugh.”
Depardieu’s case has also been taken up by opposition conservative politicians, who see the left-wing government’s tax hikes as “fiscal bludgeoning” of the wealthy.
The French public, meanwhile, is divided. An OpinionWay opinion poll on Thursday had 47% of those surveyed supporting Ayrault, and 46% behind Depardieu.
The actor, best known to English-speaking audiences for his 1990 film Green Card, is leaving France as the government implements a new tax rate of 75% on earnings over one million euros.
By becoming a Belgian resident, Depardieu will avoid the new top rate of tax, and will not be liable for France’s wealth and capital gains taxes.
European rules stipulate that taxes are paid according to the laws of the country of residence and not by nationality.