France's wealthiest man sues paper for running his picture under the headline 'Go away, rich p****' after he said he was moving to Belgium

  • Liberation aimed attack at tycoon Bernard Arnault
  • It follows his decision to seek Belgian nationality
  • Mr Arnault is worth upwards of £32bn, and earns six figure salary

By Peter Allen

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The wealthiest man in France is to sue the country’s biggest Left-wing newspaper for running a front-page picture of him under the headline: ‘Get lost, you rich p***k!’

Liberation’s attack on Bernard Arnault, 63, worth around £32billion and also Europe’s richest man, came after his decision to seek Belgian nationality as President Francois Hollande prepares to introduce a 75 per cent tax rate for the super-wealthy.

Yesterday’s headline, with a picture of Mr Arnault smiling in front of an overnight travel bag, read: ‘Casse-toi riche con!’

Tax avoidance: Bernard Arnault has applied for Belgian nationality

Tax avoidance: Bernard Arnault has applied for Belgian nationality

News of his intention to quit France has prompted anger across the country, but Mr Arnault, whose LVMH luxury-goods group runs companies such as Dior, Dom Perignon and Louis Vuitton, insists his desire to become a Belgian has nothing to do with avoiding tax.

He claims he is moving for personal reasons and will continue paying taxes in France.

 

But few believe him, and Liberation was not alone in its attack.

Mr Hollande, who has openly admitted that he dislikes rich people, said Mr Arnaud 'should have reflected on what it means to ask for another nationality, because we are proud to be French'.

Benoit Hamon, Minister for the Social Economy, also suggested Mr Arnault was unpatriotic saying: 'I expect the French, especially the richest ones, to be true patriots.'

Leftist politician Jean-Luc Melenchon said the country did not need such ‘parasites’ and Socialist lawmaker Bruno Le Roux said Mr Arnault was ‘betraying France’s recovery’.

But Mr Arnault, who runs luxury goods giant LVMH – which includes designer brands like Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton – said Liberation had gone too far.

He is suing the paper for making 'public personal insults', with a statement reading: 'Bernard Arnault has no other choice, given the extreme vulgarity and brutality' of the headline in Liberation, which is the French equivalent of The Guardian.

Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon
President Francois Hollande

Former Prime Minister of France Francois Fillon (left) said ‘stupid decisions’ by the socialist government led by President Francois Hollande (right) had prompted Mr Arnault to become a Belgian

If found guilty Liberation will be expected to run a public apology, probably on its front page, although any fine will be nominal.

Politicians from right and left are now accusing Mr Hollande of driving wealth-creating tycoons out of the country to cities like Brussels, London, and Geneva, where they will pay less tax.

Francois Fillon, the conservative who stepped down as Prime Minister of France in May, said 'stupid decisions' by the Socialists who replaced his own government had prompted Mr Arnault to become a Belgian.

Mr Fillon said: 'When you take stupid decisions, you get these terrible results. The chief of one of the best companies in the world, who symbolises French know-how and success, known throughout the world, has been prompted to change his nationality because of the fiscal policy which is being applied in our country.'

'If there's a certain brutality, or vulgarity in Liberation, it it precisely because of the situation in which we find ourselves.'

Sylvain Bourmeau

Despite the row, Mr Hollande insists there will be 'no exceptions' to his 75 per cent super tax, which with other contributions will see some giving up to 90 per cent of their salaries to the government.

Mr Hollande said that the tax was 'symbolic' and would 'set an example' to everybody else in society.

The Socialist President has made no secret of the fact that he sees taxing the rich as the key to revitalising France's stagnant economy.

Liberation used the front page headline as a play on words on a similar insult former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy used in 2008.

Mr Sarkozy, a close personal friend of Mr Arnault, told a man who had been rude to him in a crowd in Paris: 'casse-toi, pauvre con'.

This means 'go away, poor p****', with the idea being that the Socialist were telling multi-billionaires like Mr Arnault 'go away, rich p****'.

In an editorial linked to their front page, Liberation made it clear that they were highlighting a nationwide debate about Mr Hollande apparently driving the rich out of France with his high taxes.

'It is primarily ironic humour, ' said deputy editor Sylvain Bourmeau. 'If there's a certain brutality, or vulgarity in Liberation, it it precisely because of the situation in which we find ourselves.

'The decision by Bernard Arnault' to see Belgian nationality 'also contains a certain dose of vulgarity, and there's been a boomerang effect.'

If Mr Arnaud wins his case he is likely to get no more than 1 euro in damages.

Liberation was founded by the world famous philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973, and is viewed as the mouthpiece of liberal France. It sells around 140,000 copies a day, and is widely read online.

 

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

People mistake "wealth creating" and "wealth accumulating". Rich people, by definition, are very good at wealth accumulating. Often they do it by taking a slice of the transactions of many middle class wealth creators. Other times the rich simply inherit the wealth.

Click to rate     Rating   5

Why do socialists always base their crazy ideas on their own personal hatreds. They would be better off reading a few books, especially ones on economics. It's just tragic that so many people vote for them.

Click to rate     Rating   7

I think that M. Hollande really needs a basic lesson in economics and in particular the Laffer Curve. Or maybe just look what happened in this country 40 or so years ago when we had tax rates as high as 98% (83% income tax + 15% Investment Income Surcharge)

Click to rate     Rating   11

At least we don't have to bail him out , like the rest of the mooners and corupted EU scams.

Click to rate     Rating   8

Why doesn't he move to Switzerland? Much better tax than Belgium!

Click to rate     Rating   11

I'm fed up of the left saying the rich should support them. I studied, spend a lot of my time working and don't want to pay some idiot who feels. Should support him.

Click to rate     Rating   20

¿Casse-toi riche con!¿ is certainly not called for. Bernard Arnault in 1981, emigrated to the USA and created Ferinel Inc. which developed condominiums in Florida.So moving to Belguim will be no problem to him. Especially if it is for tax avoidance(legal). I am certainly not super wealthy, but as soon as l can l will sell my French house and never return to France unless they have a government that is not taxing people with a "few quid"! It appears to me that Francois Hollande is not a socialist, but more of a Marxist......"not that l know much about politics"! Any ex-British pats staying in France had better look out and be prepared to part with their hard earned pension money.

Click to rate     Rating   11

He should apply/move to North Korea-no tax & no Democracy

Click to rate     Rating   18

You must kill the geese that lay the golden eggs, they need to pay more & more. Maybe the taxes can be 150% on everyone so that the goverment can waste more money buying votes. Every one can then have a small bowl of gruel every day as payment to go with their thin blanket on the ground.

Click to rate     Rating   27

Lower top rates of tax to 30% and close ALL the personal and corporate loopholes with heavy pentalies for those that try to avoid and everyone will be happier. I'm very lucky to be at the top end of the scale but I have; A/ always been paid in full via PAYE, B/ never ever used a tax scheme to avoid tax C/ never begruded paying taxes as it's part of my responsibility towards society. The only thing I've ever begrudged is my tax money being wasted by spendthrifts.

Click to rate     Rating   36

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