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.
- 1 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Perez Hilton apologises for publishing Jennifer Lawrence naked 4Chan photos
Jennifer Lawrence 'nude photo hacker' claims there are hundreds more celebrity images to come
Victoria Justice on naked photo leak: 'Let me nip this in the bud right now – pun intended'
Ariana Grande nude photos leak: Pictures are completely fake, say representatives
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain
£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Group: We are looking for an outstandi...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: We are working with an exciting orga...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Deputy Education Manager required, S...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: We are working with an exciting orga...