Luxury, treachery and a break for Belgium's border

Bernard Arnault of LVMH denies that bid for dual citizenship is spurred by Hollande’s 75 per cent tax

Bernard Arnault, the fourth-richest man in the world and founder of the LVMH luxury goods empire, provoked a political firestorm in France at the weekend when he confirmed he is seeking dual French-Belgian citizenship.

Although Mr Arnault, 63, said he had no plans to move to tax exile in Belgium, his decision was immediately linked by politicians on left and right to President François Hollande's promise to impose a 75 per cent tax on marginal income over €1m (£800,000). There have been rumours that this will be diluted when formally proposed later this month, but President Hollande insisted at the weekend that his promise – or threat – would be kept.

Mr Arnault said that he wanted to be Belgian – or half-Belgian – so that he could "develop" his financial interests in France's northern neighbour. Although he comes originally from Roubaix on the Belgian border, he has no Belgian blood or family ties.

His explanation was dismissed as absurdly unconvincing in both Belgium and France yesterday. As France's richest man, with interests estimated by Forbes magazine to be worth €32bn, he can already invest in Belgium as much as he likes.

As a Belgian, Mr Arnault could benefit from tax-free status in Monaco – but only if he renounced his French citizenship. French people who live in the tiny principality are taxed in France. Belgians citizens live there tax free.

The former centre-right prime minister, François Fillon, said Mr Arnault's decision was clearly provoked by the 75 per cent income tax plan. "When a government takes decisions as stupid as that, you can expect terrifying consequences such as this," he said.

Left-wing politicians accused Mr Arnault, who has built Louis Vuitton-Moet Hennessy (LVMH) into the biggest luxury goods empire in the world, of being unpatriotic. One accused him of "treachery".

Harlem Désir, deputy head of the Socialist party, said: "If you love France, you don't leave when the going gets tough."

Mr Hollande's income-tax plan was one of the key proposals of his successful election campaign in the spring. It anchored his support on the Left when it seemed to be slipping and helped to paint President Nicolas Sarkozy as a "president of the rich".

According to press reports last week, the 75 per tax will appear in weakened form in draft legislation to be published later this month. Sportsmen and actors will be spared. Married couples will be taxed at 75 per cent on marginal income exceeding €2m.

President Hollande, whose approval ratings have been sliding rapidly, insists that his campaign promise will be kept. In a live television interview last night, he was expected to warn that €15bn in new taxes would be needed to meet the eurozone deficit-cutting target next year and that France faced its toughest economic challenges for 30 years.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
News
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
news
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an enthusias...

Maths Teacher

£120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an enthusiastic Maths Tea...

English Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a dynamic En...

SAP Data Migration Lead

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Experienced Lead SAP Data Manager Requir...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform