French film star goes into tax exile – just 800 yards over border

Gerard Depardieu be far from the only Frenchman in Nechin
Gerard Depardieu be far from the only Frenchman in Nechin
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French film star Gerard Depardieu has moved into his new tax-exile mansion in Belgium – a mere 800 yards from the border with France

The 64-year-old actor’s lavish home in the village of Nechin, on a street known as Millionaire’s Row, is less than two minutes drive from the French town of Roubaix.

Depardieu is the latest wealthy French citizen to flee a looming new tax of 75 per cent on all earnings over €1 million (£800,000) imposed by the left-wing government of president Francois Hollande.

About a third of Nechin’s 2,000-strong population was already French, village mayor Daniel Senesael said yesterday.

He added: “He [Depardieu] has moved in already and he is very welcome here.

“He enjoys our countryside and our easy-going, rural way of life. And, of course, he also enjoys our lower taxes.”

France’s Le Point news magazine recently observed: “Nechin may be less glamorous than London, Geneva, Brussels and its climate is less pleasant than Monaco, but it has become a tax haven for rich families from northern France.”

Among Depardieu’s neighbours will be members of the Mulliez family, who own the Auchan supermarket chain.

The actor’s co-star in the Asterix movies, Christian Clavier, moved to London before the 
Socialists came to power in May.

And France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault, the head of luxury goods group LVMH, revealed this summer that he had applied for Belgian citizenship, although he insisted he was not trying to dodge tax.

France’s economy minister Pierre Moscovici has hit out at repeated claims in the world’s media that France’s richest people were fleeing overseas.

He told a conference of business leaders in Paris: “I am troubled to read in the papers that the exile has begun, and that companies are fleeing.

“I also lament attacks on the government’s economic policies that are in vogue in France and abroad. ‘Le French-bashing’ is terrible.”

His comments also came after Laurence Parisot, the head of Medef, the French equivalent of UK business lobby group the CBI, warned last month that left-wing economic policies risked turning France into ‘the poor man of Europe’.

She said: “Large foreign investors are shunning France altogether. It’s becoming really dramatic.

“Ten years ago, Germany was the poor man of Europe and if we don’t act now, that title will soon be ours.”

Paris estate agents said in September that France’s luxury property market had hit a “selling panic” as the super-rich rushed to flee the new 75 per cent tax.

Estate agent Daniel Feau said: “It’s nearly a general panic. Some 400 to 500 residences worth more than €1 million have come on to the Paris market since May.”

For Depardieu, best known for his roles as Obelix in the French Asterix movies and as Cyrano de Bergerac in the 1990 film of the same name, the move to Belgium will do nothing to improve his image, already tarnished by a series of embarrassing incidents.

Just last week, he was arrested for driving under the influence after falling off his scooter in Paris, while in August, a car driver filed a legal complaint for assault and battery against him following an altercation in the French capital.