The Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique revealed information the morning of Saturday September 8 that shocked the French public. Bernard Arnault has applied to be naturalized as a Belgian citizen through the Commission of Naturalizations of the Belgian House of Representatives. In order to be accepted, the candidate must provide proof of “real ties” to Belgium.
Bernard Arnault, chairman of the luxury goods group LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), was the wealthiest French citizen and the fourth wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine, which estimates his worth to be $41 billion.
Since this announcement, the matter has become a political one. Many voices have risen to denounce an alleged tax exile because Belgium does not tax wealth and the tax on capital remains low.
Bernard Tapis, the famous French businessman, has responded in the newspaper Le Parisien: “I am extremely surprised. France owes him a lot, but he owes a lot to France.” The Communist Party denounced “a cowardly betrayal.”
François Fillon, former Prime Minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, placed the blame on the fact that the left is currently in power, pointing specifically to the creation of the new 75% tax on income above €1 million euros. “The head of one of the finest companies in the world, that symbolizes know-how and French success, known throughout the entire world, might be led to change his nationality because of the tax policy that is carried out in our country.”
If Bernard Arnault confirmed the information that was released Saturday, he denied any tax exile in a statement released on September 9. “Contrary to the information published today, Mr. Bernard Arnault clarifies that he is and will remain a French taxpayer.”
The statement concluded in a sort of justification: “Mr. Arnault, originally from northern France, has numerous ties to Belgium that are both personal and family ties, as well as professional ones. His private group (Groupe Arnault) has many investments in Belgium, and intends to develop them. It is in this context that Mr. Bernard Arnault requested double French-Belgian citizenship.”
According to the AFP, who had access to a source close to the case, this request would have indeed been intended to facilitate investments on Belgian territory and not to escape the new tax policy of President Hollande.