Actor Depardieu's Belgium move "pathetic": French PM

Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:49pm EST
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By Brian Love and Nicholas Vinocur

PARIS (Reuters) - Actor Gerard Depardieu's decision to establish residency in Belgium, which does not have a wealth tax, by buying a house just over the border with France, is "pathetic" and unpatriotic, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Wednesday.

Depardieu has become the latest wealthy Frenchman after luxury magnate Bernard Arnault to look for shelter outside his native country following tax hikes by Socialist President Francois Hollande.

"Going just over the border, I find that fairly pathetic," Ayrault said on France 2 television. "Being a Frenchman means loving your country and helping it to get back on its feet."

The "Cyrano de Bergerac" star bought a house in the Belgian village of Nechin near the border with France, where 27 percent of the population is composed of French nationals, local mayor Daniel Senesael told French media on Sunday.

Depardieu also enquired about procedures for acquiring Belgian residency, he said.

Yann Galut, a Socialist member of parliament, condemned the actor and proposed that France copy U.S. practice by adopting a law that would force exiles to pay full tax dues or risk being stripped of their nationality.

"It is scandalous and shameful," Galut told Reuters in an interview.

"The country's in dire straits. This man owes everything he has to France - the accolades, the subsidies that helped produce his films, the schools where he was educated. At the end of a career that made him extremely rich he wants nothing to do with national solidarity."   Continued...

Actor Gerard Depardieu speaks during a news conference to promote the movie "Mammuth" at the Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, February 19, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Charisius