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Bernard Arnault, France richest man, applying for Belgian citizenship


Luxury group LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault leaves the Matignon Hotel in Paris after a meeting with French Prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, on September 5, 2012.



Bernard Arnault, France's richest man, has applied for Belgian citizenship as President Francois Hollande pushes ahead with plans to impose a 75 percent wealth tax.

According to France 24, Arnault — the head of luxury goods conglomerate Louis Vuitton, Moët and Hennessy (LVMH) — lodged an application with parliament in Brussels last week.

The 63-year-old's move has focused attention on Hollande's decision to impose a 75 percent tax on marginal income over 1 million euros, which he said was aimed at pulling the country out of debt.

Although Arnault, whose fortune Forbes magazine put at 32 billion euros, making him the world's fourth-richest man, said he had no plans to move to Belgium.

Rather, he wanted to be Belgian to "develop" his financial interests there, the Irish Independent reported.

However, the Independent pointed out that Arnault could already invest in Belgium "as much as he likes." 

He told Agence France-Presse on Sunday that he was not becoming a tax exile: "I am and will remain a tax resident in France and in this regard I will, like all French people, fulfill my fiscal obligations."

"Our country must count on everyone to do their bit to face a deep economic crisis amid strict budgetary constraints," he said.

Hollande said Sunday in a televised interview that Arnault "must weigh up what it means to seek another nationality because we are proud to be French." 

"One has to appeal to patriotism during this period," he added, according to AFP.

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