Actor Depardieu hits back at French PM over tax exile
By John Irish
PARIS (Reuters) - Actor Gerard Depardieu, accused by French government leaders of trying to dodge taxes by buying a house over the border in Belgium, retorted that he was leaving because "success" was now being punished in his homeland.
A popular and colourful figure in France, the 63-year-old Depardieu is the latest wealthy Frenchman to seek shelter outside his native country after tax increases by Socialist President Francois Hollande.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described Depardieu's behavior as "pathetic" and unpatriotic at a time when the French are being asked to pay higher taxes to reduce a bloated national debt.
"Pathetic, you said pathetic? How pathetic is that?" Depardieu said in a letter distributed to the media.
"I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned," he said.
An angry member of parliament has proposed that France adopt a U.S.-inspired law that would force Depardieu or anyone trying to escape full tax dues to forego their nationality.
The "Cyrano de Bergerac" star recently bought a house in Nechin, a Belgian village a short walk from the border with France, where 27 percent of residents are French nationals, and put up his sumptuous Parisian home up for sale.
Depardieu, who has also inquired about procedures for acquiring Belgian residency, said he was handing in his passport and social security card. Continued...