French Icon Depardieu Causes Uproar Over Move to Belgium

Gérard Depardieu.Photo: Lee Kelso

Gérard Depardieu.
Photo: Lee Kelso

Three months after France’s richest man, LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, sparked controversy by seeking to establish residency in Belgium, another household name has announced an imminent move north.  Following rumors of his search for a more tax-friendly new home last month, iconic French Actor Gérard Depardieu has settled on the Belgian town of Néchin—less than one kilometer (half a mile, more or less) from the French border—as his chosen alternative to Parisian residency. Depardieu was also offered a Russian passport by Vladimir Putin on December 20.

Preparing for his move north, Depardieu has notably put his €50 million ($66.2 million) left-bank residence on the market and publicly responded to being called “minable” (translated as “pathetic” or “shabby” by Anglophone media outlets) by French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

“It’s [pathetic] to move to the other side of the border to not pay taxes…He’s a great star, everyone loves him as an artist,” Ayrault told the France 2 television channel on Wednesday, December 12, but “to pay a tax is an act of solidarity, a patriotic act.”

Firing back at the Socialist prime minister’s criticism, Depardieu published an open letter to Ayrault in Sunday’s Journal du Dimanche, claiming that over the course of his working life, the celebrated movie star has paid 145 million euros ($190 million) in taxes.

“I started working aged 14, as a printer, as a warehouseman, then as an actor, and I’ve always paid my taxes” he wrote.  “I’ve no place to complain or to boast, but I refuse to be described as pathetic,” Mr. Depardieu said.

The French actor, best known by Anglophone audiences for his roles in Green Card (1990) and The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), notably claimed in his letter to have paid 85% of his 2012 income in taxes—a figure later questioned by French Minister of Parliamentary Relations, Alain Vidalies, on France’s Jewish radio station, Radio J.

Depardieu also set tongues wagging with speculation that he would renounce his French citizenship, stating defiantly that he will return his passport and social security (which he claims to have never used).  The mayor of Néchin—a Socialist, as French President François Hollande recently pointed out—has indicated that Depardieu will be seeking Belgian nationality.  Néchin is already home to approximately 2,8000 French expatriates, including the Mulliez family, described by Russia Today as the “billionaire clan” behind French retail chain Auchan.

“More illustrious personalities than I have expatriated or left our country,” Depardieu wrote. “Who are you to judge me like this?  I ask you, Monsieur Ayrault—prime minister of Monsieur Hollande—I ask you: who are you?  Despite my excess, my appetite, and my love of live, I am a free being, Monsieur, and I will remain polite.”


  1. […] this decision, the constitutional council rejected the controversial 75% tax on income exceeding 1 million euros. They pronounced that it “violating the principle of […]

  2. […] cutting debt and making every citizen part of the national effort, for instance with new taxes. Not referring directly to the Depardieu scandal and to the rejection of the very symbolic 75% tax by the constitutional council, Hollande declared […]

  3. […] wherein anything earned over €1 million a year would be taxed at 75%.  Depardieu’s decision to leave France in favor of neighboring Belgium was called “pathetic” by French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on national television, […]

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