Depardieu to hand French passport back

Updated at 1:12 pm on 18 December 2012

Actor Gerard Depardieu says he is handing back his French passport after the prime minister criticised him for moving to Belgium to avoid taxes.

In a letter to a newspaper, he lambasted the French government for punishing "success, creation and talent".

Last week Depardieu, 63, announced he was moving to the town of Nechin in Belgium, just over the border from the French city of Lille.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described the decision as "shabby" and suggested that the move to Nechin was unpatriotic at a time of economic cuts.

The BBC reports that next year, the top rate of income tax in France is due to become 75% on earnings above 1 million euros. It is currently 50% in Belgium.

"I am not asking to be approved of, but I could at least be respected. All of those who have left France have not been insulted as I have been," Depardieu wrote in Le Journal du Dimanche.

He accused the government of driving France's most talented figures out of the country.

"I am leaving because you consider that success, creation, talent, anything different, must be punished," he said.

Depardieu said that during his career he had paid 145 million euros (£118 million) to the French taxman.

"At no time have I failed in my duties. The historic films in which I took part bear witness to my love of France and its history," he said.

: "Who are you to judge me in this way?" Depardieu asked Mr Ayrault.

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