x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Gérard Depardieu denies trying to escape taxes

After acquiring a Russian passport this week, the actors says he remains French

Gérard Depardieu denied on Monday that he accepted a Russian passport to escape the taxman in France and said that while he may also seek Belgian nationality, he is still French.

Depardieu's first public remarks since acquiring a Russian passport on Saturday suggest that his threat last month to turn in his French passport was a bluff, or the indignant reaction of a wounded man.

"I have a Russian passport, but I remain French and I will probably have dual Belgian nationality," he told the sports channel L'Equipe21. "But if I'd wanted to escape the taxman, as the French press says, I would have done it a long time ago."

Depardieu, 64, is one of France's best-known actors. He has been at the centre of a heated debate over tax exiles as France's Socialist government looks to fill state coffers with a hefty tax on the rich. Depardieu drew scorn and insults with his recent decision to move to neighbouring Belgium, where taxes are less steep for the well-off.

After the French prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, called him "pathetic" and "unpatriotic", Depardieu wrote an open letter in mid-December saying he was handing in his passport and social security card. Then, over the weekend, Depardieu showed up in Russia to accept a passport delivered personally by the president, Vladimir Putin.

Elisabeth Depardieu, the actor's former wife, said in an interview with RTL radio that her former spouse is by nature emotional. "When he feels refused, he becomes provocative," she said. "Should we throw stones? He is a monument. He is a poet." - AP