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French actor Depardieu seeks Belgian residency: mayor

French actor Gerard Depardieu delivers a speech during a campaign rally for France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, candidate for the 2012 REUTE
French actor Gerard Depardieu delivers a speech during a campaign rally for France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, candidate for the 2012 REUTE

By Vicky Buffery

PARIS (Reuters) - Actor Gerard Depardieu has become the latest Frenchman to look for shelter outside his native country after a series of tax hikes by Socialist President Francois Hollande on the wealthy.

The "Cyrano de Bergerac" star has bought a house in the Belgian village of Nechin near the French border, local mayor Daniel Senesael told French media on Sunday, adding he had also enquired about procedures for acquiring Belgian residency.

Senesael said Depardieu would join some 2,800 French living in the same area a few minutes drive from the border, including the Mulliez family, owners of French hypermarket chain Auchan and Decathlon sports stores, who have lived there for years.

Belgian residents do not pay wealth tax, which in France is now slapped on individuals with assets over 1.3 million euros, nor do they pay capital gains tax on the sale of shares.

"I think he wanted to enjoy the atmosphere in Belgium, our identity, the rural, bucolic setting," Senesael told RTL radio.

For Depardieu, best known for his roles as Obelix in the French "Asterix" films and as Cyrano de Bergerac in the 1990 film of the same name, the move will do nothing to improve his image, already tarnished by a series of embarrassing incidents.

Just last week, Depardieu was arrested for driving under the influence after falling of his scooter in Paris, while in August a car driver filed a legal complaint for assault and battery against him following an altercation in the capital.

(Additional reporting by Sophie Louet; Editing by Mark John and Stephen Powell)

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