Making A Break For The Belgian Border: France's Famous Tax Exiles Spark Furor



PARIS – French newspapers are tracking tax exiles after Bernard Arnault, France's richest man and head of luxury good giant LVMH, said Sunday he was seeking Belgian nationality.

The luxury tycoon's move to seek Belgian citizenship has caused outrage in a country hit by a steep economic crisis.

"I am and will remain a tax resident in France and in this regard I will, like all French people, fulfill my fiscal obligations," said the world's fourth-richest man, denying claims of tax evasion.

Yet most French left-wing daily newspapers appeared quite skeptical about Arnault’s motives for becoming a Belgian citizen. The fiscal environment for billionaires is much more amenable in Belgium than in Arnault’s native country, explains France 24.

On Monday's front page, French left-leaning newspaper Libération ordered the billionaire, whose super-luxe holding house owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Dom Perignon champagne, to “Get Lost You Rich A-hole” (“Casse toi riche con”).

"Even if he denies he is going into exile for financial reasons, his request for Belgian nationality makes Bernard Arnault the symbol of the most wealthy's selfishness," Libération declared.

Arnault was also advised by Communist newspaper L’Humanité to either “Leave or Love France,” a quote usually aimed at immigrant workers and used by conservative politicians.

The outspoken leader of the Left Front far-left party said people like Arnault were "parasites," while his nemesis far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Arnault was guilty of "scandalous behavior."

French President François Hollande has insisted the current financial crisis puts an onus on the most wealthy to help lift the beleaguered economy out of debt.

His controversial plan to introduce a 75% income tax rate for earnings over one million euros is due to be finalized later this month.

Le Figaro has drawn up a list of France’s most famous tax exiles:

1- Amélie Mauresmo: The former tennis champion resides in tax-friendly Switzerland along with several French athletes including Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet. Yannick Noah, the tennis star turned pop singer, and perennial "Most Popular" Frenchman and Socialist party supporter, also lives on the other side of the Alps.

2- Alain Delon: The famous 1960s actor also moved to Switzerland a few years ago to enjoy lower taxes. He was followed by French actress Isabelle Adjani and singer Charles Aznavour.

3- Johnny Halliday: France’s most popular singer and working-class hero has been living in Switzerland since 2006. According to Le Figaro, his 2011 income was slightly less than 5 million euros. He is reported to have paid … 580,000 euros in tax.

The list also includes famous French businessmen, writers and artists who enjoy lower taxes in havens such as Switzerland, Belgium and some Caribean Islands.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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