Film star Gérard Depardieu has denied that he is leaving his homeland for tax reasons, saying that, although he now has a Russian passport, he is still very much French.
In an interview with sports channel L’Equipe 21 – his first since a row broke out in December over his decision to buy a house over the border in Belgium – Depardieu said that if he had wanted to leave to avoid tax rises he would have gone earlier.
“I have a Russian passport, but I remain French and I will probably have dual Belgian nationality. But if I’d wanted to escape the taxman, as the French press say, I would have done it a long time ago,” he said.
Depardieu was speaking in Zurich on the sidelines of a football awards ceremony after receiving a new Russian passport on Sunday from Vladimir Putin.
The 64-year-old star of Cyrano de Bergerac and Green Card has been accused by French government leaders of trying to dodge a proposed new tax rate for millionaires.
But in a letter last month to the French prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, who labelled the actor “pathetic”, Depardieu said he was leaving because success was now being punished in France.
The original proposal by the French president, François Hollande, to introduce a 75% rate on income over €1m was struck down by France’s constitutional court.
While Hollande has said he will press ahead with a tax on the wealthy, it remains unclear whether the redrafted text will be as severe on top earners.