For weeks there had been rumors that famous French actor Gerard Depardieu was going to claim Belgium citizenship to escape high French taxes. However, no one could have predicted what actually happened. Last week, Depardieu received his Russian passport.
Mr. Depardieu has wanted Russian citizenship as he wages a public personal campaign against the French Socialist government’s plan to enforce an extensive tax on high earners in France. France’s Socialist government is attempting to raise the tax rate above income on US$1.3 million to 75% from the present 41%. Mr. Depardieu’s decision has allowed the Kremlin to advertise its flat 13% income tax rate, which it hopes will tempt wealthy Russians to declare their income and even attraction some foreigners to Russia as well. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has branded the move “pathetic”.
Russia’s new citizen even dined with President Vladimir Putin at his residence in Sochi. Russian television broadcast the two men chatting warmly through a translator and embracing. The actor has praised Putin, even calling him a “friend”. He has also hailed Russia as a “great democracy”. “He is impressed by our democracy – he has completely lost his marbles,” wrote one Facebook user, Vladimir Sokolov.
Depardieu was already something of a star in Russia where many of his films have been screened in dubbed version. Therefore, he is now being received as a hero and a great political coup for Putin.
The former Oscar nominee has not confirmed what part of Russia he wants to live in but has ruled out Moscow. He has said that the city is too big for him and would prefer a quieter village life.