Bloomberg News

Billionaire Arnault’s Belgian Citizenship Application Hits Snag

December 20, 2012

French billionaire Bernard Arnault’s effort to become a Belgian citizen may have hit a snag after the country’s immigration office deemed he hasn’t lived in the country long enough.

The LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (MC) chief executive officer hasn’t had his primary residence in Belgium for the requisite three years, the immigration affairs service wrote three weeks ago to the parliamentary committee handling such requests, Belgian newspaper De Morgen said today.

The public prosecutor’s office and security services will also submit opinions on the application to the committee, which must issue a unanimous decision. While the outcome isn’t bound by the recommendations -- meaning the application isn’t doomed by negative reports -- De Morgen said it’s unlikely Arnault will get quick approval.

The 63-year-old Frenchman said in September that he applied to become a Belgian national this year for “personal” reasons. While he denied he was going to be a fiscal exile, saying he’ll continue to pay taxes in France, his move sparked criticism from Socialist President Francois Hollande and his government.

Hollande called on his “patriotism” and the newspaper Liberation ran a front-page headline that read: “Get lost, rich bastard.”

Depardieu’s Move

The firestorm was renewed last week with actor Gerard Depardieu also deciding to move to Belgium, saying his tax rate had hit 85 percent. The cover of Belgian magazine Trends- Tendances this week reads “Merci, Francois Hollande” with an image of Depardieu making an obscene gesture and sporting cuff- links with the Belgian flag on them.

A spokesman for LVMH declined to comment on the application process or De Morgen report. The Belgian immigration office didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment.

The Belgian naturalization process changes on Jan. 1, allowing famous people to seek nationality based on their ability to enhance Belgium’s international standing, De Morgen said.

Belgium “is in need of” Arnault, who would invest in the country and create jobs there, Belgian lawmaker Theo Francken said, according to Flemish language broadcaster VRT, adding “he is somebody with tremendous added value for our country.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Smith in Paris at hsmith26@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net


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