Gerard Depardieu is to leave his French homeland for Belgium in order to pay less tax.
The actor is the latest high profile figure to leave France after a series of wealth tax hikes by President Francois Hollande.
According to the local mayor Daniel Senesael, Depardieu has bought a house in the Belgian village of Nechin near the French border. He has also apparently enquired about procedures for acquiring Belgian residency.
Senesael said Depardieu would join some 2,800 French living in the same area a few minutes’ drive from the border, including the Mulliez family, owners of French hypermarket chain Auchan and Decathlon sports stores, who have lived there for years.
Belgian residents do not pay capital gains tax on the sale of shares or wealth tax.
In France, however, individuals with assets over €1.3 million have to pay a hefty wealth tax.
“I think he wanted to enjoy the atmosphere in Belgium, our identity, the rural, bucolic setting,” Senesael told RTL radio.
For Depardieu, best known for his roles as Obelix in the French “Asterix” films and as Cyrano de Bergerac in the 1990 film of the same name, the move will do nothing to improve his image, already tarnished by a series of embarrassing incidents.
Just last week, Depardieu was arrested for driving under the influence after falling of 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 capital.
He also controversially appears on new single by Googoosha, AKA Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of Uzbekistan's brutal dictator Islam Karimov. Earlier this year there were reports Depardieu will also star in a film by Karimova, who is one of the world's richest women.
And last year, he was thrown off a Paris to Dublin CityJet flight for urinating on the floor after exclaiming "I need to piss, I need to piss".
Cabin crew had apparently refused to allow him to go the lavatory while the plane was still on the runway awaiting take-off.
Depardieu later blamed the incident of "prostate problems", and claimed he simply urinated into a bottle that overflowed.
Tax exiles: the French who fled
Depardieu’s 2,800 French expat neighbours include the billionaire owners of Decathlon sports and Auchan supermarkets.
The crooner was refused Belgian citizenship so joined other French luminaries such as Alain Delon by moving to Switzerland.
France’s richest man and head of the LVMH luxury goods empire is also relocating to Belgium.
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