‘Rich jerk’ row explodes in France
France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault – the chief executive of luxury goods giant LVMH, which includes Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton – yesterday confirmed reports that he is seeking Belgian citizenship.
Mr Arnault’s move has triggered a national outcry and is widely seen as a way to dodge Socialist president Francois Hollande’s plan to tax the richest people at 75 per cent. Mr Hollande himself has publicly questioned the tycoon’s patriotism.
Mr Arnault has denied that his decision had anything to do with tax evasion – even though Belgium’s high tax bracket is considerably lower – and has said he will continue paying French tax.
The denial failed to blunt criticism at a time when Mr Hollande is asking the French to bear tax rises and a freeze in public spending for the next two years.
“Get lost, you rich jerk!” said a front-page headline in the left-leaning Liberation daily, next to a picture of Mr Arnault smiling in front of a travel bag.
Mr Arnault announced in a lawyer’s statement he was suing Liberation for public insult over the headline, calling it vulgar and violent.
Union leaders accused Mr Arnault of profiting from French workers only to take his wealth across the border.
“It’s immoral when you consider the situation of the workers on whose backs he makes his money,” Francois Chereque, head of the CFDT labour union, said.
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