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France’s richest man wants to become Belgian

media Bernard Arnault, the richest man in France and Europe, reportedly wants Belgian citizenship to avoid paying French taxes Reuters/Charles Platiau

Bernard Arnault, the world’s fourth richest man and head of the luxury goods empire Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, has applied to become a Belgian citizen.

The 63-year old confirmed press reports in Belgium that he is seeking Belgian nationality, but denies he is planning to be a tax exile.

"Contrary to the reports published today, Mr Bernard Arnault states that he is and will remain a French tax resident," a statement put out by Arnault's press office said.

"If he obtains dual French-Belgian nationality it would not change this position, nor his determination to pursue the development of the LVMH group and the creation of jobs in France which this engenders."

There had been speculation that Arnault, who has a home in Brussels, made the move because the French President, François Hollande, reaffirmed his commitment to impose a 75 percent tax rate on the nation’s highest earners.

Arnault is reportedly behind a push by wealthy businessmen to force Hollande to rethink his wealth-tax policy.

According to the Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique, 63-year old Arnault lodged an application last week to the nationalisations commission of the Chamber of Representatives of the Belgian parliament.

“The application will be treated like any other. There are 47,000 such applications on the table,” the head of the commission, Georges Dallemagne, told the newspaper.

He adds that, under Belgian law, applicants have to be at least 18 years old and prove that they have lived in Belgium for three years or have strong links to Belgium.

Arnault has an estimated fortune of 32 billion euros and is a close friend of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was regarded as being business-friendly during his presidency.

In 2007, the singer Johnny Halliday sought to become a Belgian citizen, reportedly to avoid paying high taxes, but withdrew his application after Sarkozy took office.

In 1981, Arnault went to the United States for three years after socialist François Mitterrand became President.

He only returned when the Socialists switched to a more conservative economic course.


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