NEWS
Actor Depardieu puts Paris house up for sale
Actor Depardieu puts Paris house up for sale

PARIS (Reuters) - French actor Gerard Depardieu, accused of trying to escape the taxman by buying a house just over the border in Belgium, has put his sumptuous Parisian home up for sale.

Depardieu, the latest wealthy Frenchman to seek shelter from government tax hikes, is selling a vast early 19th-century manor house in the Saint Germain district of the capital, playground of writers, jazz musicians and art dealers over the decades.

His real estate agent declined to say how much he was asking for a property that is on a list of protected national monuments and, as well as the main house, has a swimming pool, landscaped gardens and an ultramodern annex that once served as a theatre.

News of the Parisian sale plan came a day after French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described Depardieu's behavior as "pathetic" and unpatriotic at a time when the French are being asked to pay higher taxes to reduce a bloated national debt.

An angry member of parliament has proposed that France adopt a U.S.-inspired law that would force Depardieu or anyone trying to escape full tax dues to forego their nationality.

The 63-year-old "Cyrano de Bergerac" star recently bought a house in Nechin, a Belgian village a short walk from the border with France, where 27 percent of residents are French nationals, local mayor Daniel Senesael told French media on Sunday.

Depardieu also enquired about procedures for acquiring Belgian residency, he said.

The move comes three months after Bernard Arnault, chief executive of luxury giant LVMH and France's richest man, caused an uproar by seeking to establish residency in Belgium - a move he said was not for tax reasons.

Belgian residents do not pay wealth tax, which in France is now levied on those with assets over 1.3 million euros ($1.7 million). Nor do they pay capital gains tax on share sales.

Socialist President Francois Hollande is pressing ahead too with plans to impose a 75-percent supertax on income over 1 million euros.

While Depardieu's real estate agents did not comment on the price being sought for the Paris property, a local newspaper suggested it could be in the region of 50 million euros.

At average prices quoted on the Internet, a property of that size would command upwards of 20 million, without the additional status of a national monument, celebrity appeal or the artwork renovation commissioned by Depardieu when he bought it in 2003.

Depardieu's agents declined to comment.

(Reporting by Brian Love and Gerard Bon; editing by Andrew Roche)

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