Belgian MPs deny French billionaire was refused Belgian nationality

Published:  21 Dec at 6 PM
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As the Depardieu migration scandal rolls on, rumours about Belgium’s supposed refusal to grant billionaire entrepreneur Bernard Arnault Belgian nationality have been quashed.

It takes the French to make a highly successful drama out of a crisis, with the sudden departure of actor Gerard Depardieu across the border enhancing the French love of rumour and scandal. As most of France comes out on Depardieu’s side, Bernard Arnault, the first billionaire migrant to Belgium, has been dragged into the scenario.

Arnault and his family, scions of one of the world’s most exclusive luxury goods empire, were the first to leave France after rumours of the new tax law aimed at soaking the seriously rich hit the media. Once the move was complete, Arnault insisted his relocation had nothing to do with tax avoidance and immediately applied for Belgian nationality.

Jumping the gun this week, the De Morgen newspaper announced Belgium’s Office for Foreigners’ refusal of Arnault’s application, citing the fact that he had not been resident in the country for the three required years. However, head of the country’s naturalization committee George Dallemagne immediately accused the newspaper of anticipating, saying that the reason given was not sufficient for a refusal.

Referring to the Office for Foreigners as merely an ‘administrative body’, Dallemagne added that his committee would be studying the matter as the law states that citizenship can be granted if there are real links with the country. In evidence, he reminded reporters that a famous pianist and a star basketball player had just been granted citizenship on those grounds.

According to the Forbes Rich List, Arnault is the world’s fourth-richest man with a fortune of $41 billion, and his request for Belgian citizenship admittedly caused uproar in France. Another recent migrant, this time to the UK, was Alain Afflelou, owner of an international chain of opticians, although his fortune pales in comparison at only £147 million.
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