Depardieu hosts house-warming party in Belgian tax haven

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 5:36am


French film star Gerard Depardieu hosted a house-warming barbecue at his new home in Belgium, just across the border from his native France where he got into a fight with the authorities over a 75 per cent tax on the super rich.

The 64-year-old actor, star of dozens of films including Cyrano de Bergerac, threw the party for some 200 people, including his new neighbours, in the grounds of the 19th-century, five-bedroom home that he bought last year in Nechin.

"The residents greet me with smiles and 'I love yous'," Depardieu said. "There's no need for pretence, or to hide, or to be a star with all the bodyguards. That's why I invited them."

At the weekend, the municipality of Estaimpuis, which includes Nechin, made its most famous resident an honorary citizen.

Depardieu said that life in Nechin was "perfect".

"I have worked around the world but I settled in Nechin," he said, describing himself as a "citizen of the world".

Local butcher Marc Vens, who catered the party, said that T-bone steaks and suckling pig were on the menu.

Around a quarter of the residents of Nechin are French and many are wealthy, attracted to the spot by Belgium's less onerous tax laws.

Depardieu stirred up controversy when he decided to take up residency across the border after the socialist government sought to impose a 75 per cent tax rate on annual incomes over €1 million (HK$10.3 million).

In January, Depardieu was granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin. The move was criticised, as were his friendships with Putin and Chechnya's strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

The veteran actor told France's Figaro magazine on Friday that the controversy had been "a big misunderstanding" and that he still loved France.

Hailed as one of the greatest actors of his generation, Depardieu owns a number of businesses including vineyards. But in recent years he has also become known for his off-screen antics.

He landed a fine earlier this year for drink-driving and in 2011 generated global headlines when he tried to urinate in a bottle aboard a plane as it prepared to take off from Paris for Dublin.