Bernard Arnault Denies Belgium Move

Luxury titan states that he plans to remain a French taxpayer.

PARIS — Squelching speculation he would soon move to Belgium to escape anti-wealth measures by France’s new Socialist government, Bernard Arnault issued a statement Saturday saying that he “is and will remain” a fiscal resident of France.

Still, the luxury titan – France’s richest man and chairman and chief executive of luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton – acknowledged he has applied to have dual French-Belgian citizenship, which prompted a torrent of press attention on a hot-button issue.

In a statement, Arnault said he is seeking a Belgian passport as he has numerous personal and business ties to the country, including several investments via his private holding Groupe Arnault.

Dual citizenship would not change his tax status, nor “his determination to continue developing the LVMH group and creating jobs” in France. The statement noted that LVMH hires thousands of people in France and “over the last 20 years has contributed massively to French exports.”

Arnault’s statement comes as French President Francois Hollande finds himself under intense pressure to fix the country’s ailing economy, and back away from punitive policies that could drive business away and exacerbate already high unemployment.

During an interview with TF1 television Sunday night, Hollande said he would honor an election promise and institute a tax rate of 75 percent on incomes over 1 million euros, or about $1.3 million, until the economy recovers.

Last Wednesday, Arnault had a 40-minute meeting with France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to discuss the general economic situation, as reported.

In recent years, scores of wealthy French have fled to countries like Switzerland and Belgium to escape already high taxes in France.

The Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique broke the news about Arnault’s quest for citizenship and quoted an official saying his is but one among 47,000 applications it is processing.