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France’s wealthiest man drops Belgian citizenship bid

11:38 11/04/2013

Bernard Arnault, France’s richest man, has withdrawn his application for Belgian citizenship after the move caused outcry in the country. Arnault, the head of luxury group LVMH, applied for the citizenship last year as France moved to impose a 75% tax on incomes above €1 million. He had always denied doing it for tax reasons. “I explained several times that I would remain a resident in France and that I would continue to pay my taxes there. In vain – the message did not get through,” he told Le Monde. “Today, I have decided to clear any ambiguity. I am withdrawing my application for Belgian citizenship.” The move comes as debate about tax havens rages in France, which is reeling from a tax fraud scandal after former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac admitted having an undeclared bank account abroad. News that Arnault was seeking Belgian citizenship came to light in September and was condemned by French political parties on both the left and the far right. At the time, newspaper Liberation published a scathing front page denouncing Arnault, with the headline “Get lost, you rich idiot!” Arnault – the world’s 10th-richest person, with a fortune estimated at £19 billion (€22.3 billion), according to Forbes – is one of several personalities to have caused controversy over plans to take up other nationalities. Actor Gérard Depardieu announced last year that he was moving abroad and giving up his French passport due to the proposed 75% tax rate. Since then, the tax plan has been struck down as unconstitutional but the government has vowed to present a new proposal that would see it charged to employers instead of individuals. In the interview, Arnault said France should be more understanding of entrepreneurs and business people. “In France, no matter if the government is left- or right-wing, they (entrepreneurs) are not thought highly of. We are like footballers, not CEOs,” he said. “Mr Tata (founder of Tata Group) is a star in India, like Warren Buffett in the United States. In Germany, the UK or the US, they condemn poverty to better fight it, while in France we condemn wealth.”

(AFP)

Written by The Bulletin