By Peter Allen
PUBLISHED:05:13 EST, 9 September 2012| UPDATED:09:50 EST, 9 September 2012
France’s richest man has applied for Belgian nationality – as the Socialist government in his home country raises the tax rate to 75 per cent.
The announcement by Bernard Arnault, who is worth a conservative 30 billion pounds, comes after President Francois Hollande admitted that he ‘dislikes the rich’.
But Mr Arnault’s move has led to a crisis for the tax-and-spend Socialist, with former minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement saying: ‘The vast majority of French elites do not believe in France anymore.’
Mr Arnault, chief executive of the luxury goods group Louis-Vuitton-Moet-Hennessy, has already been fiercely critical of Mr Hollande’s new tax initiatives.
Today he admitted that he had ‘requested Franco-Belgian duel-nationality’, and that he is expected to spend a lot more time in his mansion in Belgian.
Francois Fillon, the conservative who stepped down as Prime Minister of France in May, said ‘stupid decisions’ by the Socialists who replaced his own government had prompted Mr Arnault to become a Belgian.
Mr Fillon said: ‘When you take stupid decisions, you get these terrible results.
‘The chief of one of the best companies in the world, who symbolises French know-how and success, known throughout the world, has been prompted to change his nationality because of the fiscal policy which is being applied in our country.’
Guillaume Peltier, another member of Mr Fillon’s UMP coalition, said Mr Arnault’s decision was the ‘direct consequence of the government’s project.’
Politicians from every side of the political spectrum have expressed concern at the development, with Socialist Party MEP saying: ‘When you leave France, you don’t leave in difficult times.’
Earlier this year, Prime Minister David Cameron infuriated Mr Hollande by saying that Britain would ‘roll out the red carpet’ to French people who wanted to escape high taxes in France.
Former Prime Minister of France Francois Fillon (left) said ‘stupid decisions’ by the socialist government led by President Francois Hollande (right) had prompted Mr Arnault to become a Belgian
As the furore caused by Mr Arnault’s announcement built up, the multi-billionaire tried to play his decision.
Following reports in the Belgian media that he was solely interested in escaping Mr Hollande’s so-called ‘super tax’, a spokesman for Mr Arnaud said: ‘Contrary to the information published today, Mr Bernard Arnault says he is and remains a French tax resident.
‘Winning Franco-Belgian dual nationality will not alter this situation, nor his determination to pursue the development of LVMH and job creation.’
Mr Arnault submitted his application for Belgian nationality last week, said Georges Dallemagne, President of the Committee on Naturalisation of the House of Representatives, one of the two chambers of the Belgian Parliament.
‘The case will be treated like any other of the 47,000 applications in our inbox,’ said Mr. Dallemagne, saying that applicant must ‘demonstrate three years of residence in Belgium’ or ‘true links with the kingdom’.
Mr Arnault has a vast home in central Paris, but also one in Brussels, and insisted that he has many links with Belgian, ‘both personally and professionally’.
Mr Arnault is a firm supporter of conservative politicians across Europe, including France’s last president, Nicolas Sarkozy.
He also counts former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, himself now a multi-millionaire, among his firm friends.
Mr Hollande said on Friday that he would not back down on his super tax plans, saying : ‘I made commitments and they will be carried through’.
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