Russian President Vladimir Putin met actor Gerard Depardieu personally to hand over a Russian passport to the actor, who is leaving his native France to avoid President Francois Hollande’s newly instituted 75% income tax rate for those whose income is more than €1 million a year.
Depardieu, who surrendered his French social security number and passport in December, will now pay income tax of only 13%, provided he spends at least six months of the year in Russia. The actor – who has starred in dozens of French classics as well as English crossovers Green Card, four Asterix movies as well as current release, Life of Pi – joins an exodus of wealthy people who have left France (many for the low-tax Belgium) following the election of Hollande last year.
France’s government takes 44% of the company’s GDP in taxes, which is 10 points above the OECD average.
French Premier Jean-Marc Ayrault said Depardieu’s move was “pathetic”. In an open letter to Ayrault, Depardieu defended his move. “I am leaving because you think success, creation, talent and anything different should be punished,” he wrote.