size=4 face="Georgia, serif">Legendary French film star Gerard Depardieu has joined the exodus of well-heeled exiles fleeing Socialist President Francois Hollande's high tax levies, according to a Belgian newspaper.
Hollande's administration will slap a 75 percent income tax next year on any Frenchman or woman making at least 1 million euros annually.
Depardieu, 64, one of France's most well-known movie figures, reportedly purchased property in the Belgian village of Nechin near the French border.
The Le Soir newspaper said the star of “The Return of Martin Guerre” and dozens of other movies over the past forty years, was seen at a pricey restaurant in the nearby town of Estaimpuis celebrating his new purchase.
Belgium, which enjoys a lower tax rate, has attracted a number of prominent wealthy French seeking a tax haven, including Bernard Arnault, the owner of the Christian Dior empire, as well as the Mulliez family, who own the Auchan and Decathlon retail chains.
A French magazine Le Point magazine commented: "Nechin may well be less glamorous than London, Geneva, Brussels or even its climate less pleasant than Monaco [but its wealthy French residents] enjoy extreme Belgian clemency for large fortunes.”
More than one-quarter of Nechin's residents are now French nationals.
French government officials are not taking these departures well.
Pierre Moscovici, the French finance minister, told reporters on Monday: "What is worst thing for me is to read in the newspapers that the exile begins, businesses flee. The French bashing is frightening."
France 24 reported that Depardieu –who supported Nicholas Sarkozy in the recent French presidential election – has been a troubled figure in recent years, frequently appearing in public drunk and getting into fights.
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