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

LE FIGARO, LIBERATION, EUROPE 1, AFP, FRANCE 24 (France)

Worldcrunch

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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