Actor Gerard Depardieu joins French tax exiles in Belgium
President Hollande blamed for driving out a ‘national treasure’ with planned 75 per cent top tax rate
FRENCH President Francois Hollande is under fire after reports that his policy of increasing taxes for the rich has prompted actor Gerard Depardieu to flee the country and move to Belgium.
Depardieu is reported to have bought a property just over the border from Lille, and according to The Times the news has prompted "a bout of hand-wringing in Paris over the loss of a figure widely considered to be a national treasure".
Belgian newspaper Le Soir said on Thursday that Depardieu had agreed to purchase a property in the village of Nechin and, after agreeing the deal, was seen dining in a "chic and gastronomic" restaurant where he posed for pictures with fans.
French news magazine Le Point described the village as a "tax haven" for rich families from northern France. "Nechin may be less glamorous than London, Geneva, Brussels and its climate is less pleasant than Monaco, but 27 per cent of the population is French," it noted.
Among Depardieu's neighbours will be members of the Mulliez family, who own the Auchan supermarket chain.
It is widely believed that the actor, who plays Obelix in the French Asterix movies but found fame outside his homeland with Hollywood films like Green Card, is moving to escape Hollande's new tax system.
"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 per cent tax rate for top earners, due to be introduced in 2013," reported France 24.
"Although Depardieu's fortune has never been disclosed, it includes a production company, vineyards in Anjou, Bordeaux, Italy and Morocco and a restaurant in Paris," added the Times.
He is not the first famous actor to leave France since Hollande's election in May - his Asterix co-star Christian Clavier has moved to London.
And there was a political row earlier this year when France's richest man, Bernard Arnault, revealed he had applied for Belgian citizenship, although he maintained the move had nothing to do with avoiding tax.