December 17, 2012, 9:53 am Reuters

Colourful actor Gerard Depardieu, accused by French government leaders of trying to dodge taxes by buying a house over the border in Belgium, retorted that he was leaving because "success" was now being punished in his homeland.

French actor Gerard Depardieu at a recent film premiere. Photo: Getty Images.

A popular and flamboyant figure in France, the 63-year-old Depardieu is the latest wealthy Frenchman to seek shelter outside his native country after tax increases by Socialist President Francois Hollande.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described Depardieu's behaviour as "pathetic" and unpatriotic at a time when the French are being asked to pay higher taxes to reduce a bloated national debt.

"Pathetic, you said pathetic? How pathetic is that?" Depardieu said in a letter distributed to the media.

"I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned," he said.

An angry member of parliament has proposed that France adopt a U.S.-inspired law that would force Depardieu or anyone trying to escape full tax dues to forego their nationality.

The "Cyrano de Bergerac" star recently bought a house in Nechin, a Belgian village a short walk from the border with France, where 27 percent of residents are French nationals, and put up his sumptuous Parisian home up for sale.

Depardieu, who has also inquired about procedures for acquiring Belgian residency, said he was handing in his passport and social security card.

Depardieu in one of his most famous roles as Cyrano de Bergerac. Photo: Orion Classics.

Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti said she was outraged by Depardieu's letter, adding that he had for years been supported financially by public money for the film industry.

"When we abandon the ship and desert in the middle of an economic war, you don't then come back and give morality lessons," she told BFM-TV. "One can only regret that Gerard Depardieu doesn't make a comeback in silent movies."

He said he had paid 145 million euros (AUD$180.6 million) in taxes since beginning work as a printer at the age of 14.

"People more illustrious than me have gone into (tax) exile. Of all those that have left none have been insulted as I have."

The actor's move comes three months after Bernard Arnault, chief executive of luxury giant LVMH and France's richest man, caused an uproar by seeking to establish residency in Belgium - a move he said was not for tax reasons.

Belgian residents do not pay wealth tax, which in France is now levied on those with assets over 1.3 million euros (AUD$1.62 million). Nor do they pay capital gains tax on share sales.

"We no longer have the same homeland," Depardieu said. "I sadly no longer have a reason to stay here. I'll continue to love the French and this public that I have shared so much emotion with."

Hollande is pressing ahead too with plans to impose a 75-percent supertax on income over 1 million euros (AUD$1.25 million).

"Who are you to judge me, I ask you Mr Ayrault, prime minister of Mr Hollande? Despite my excesses, my appetite and my love of life, I remain a free man."

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  1. Russell Hayden03:22pm Wednesday 19th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    And so, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. For once, I hope life doesnt go on.

  2. D.D.11:46am Wednesday 19th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    Stupid comments from smallminded Aussies

  3. Benny Alminde06:23pm Monday 17th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    Give me a MILL a year, I would be happy to keep 250.000

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  4. Andrew03:54pm Monday 17th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    If you're going to tax the rich just or having money, not just earning it, expect them to go elsewhere and take their business and money with them! How any country can expect its citizens to put up with that treatment in a world where it's so easy to relocate is beyond me! They're trying to shame him for refusing to accept the additional cost, but how many people can honestly say they go to their accountants and ask "how can I pay more tax to help contribute to running the country"???

  5. Brian12:08pm Monday 17th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    I bet the French are happy to be rid of the repulsive piece of dogs vomit Watching only one of his films was enough for me But the piddling episode on the plane was enough for me Byeeeeee

  6. Andrea11:49am Monday 17th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    OMG he's put on so much weight! I almost didn't recognise him.

  7. Cypher00711:37am Monday 17th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    OMG he looks EXACTLY like FAT BARSTARD from Austin Powers in that photo. Get in my BELLY!!!


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