Will Sarkozy be France's latest tax refugee?

The effort by François Hollande to get the wealthy to fund his Socialist agenda isn’t off to a propitious start, needless to say.  The announcement of Hollande’s 75% tax rate for high-income earners has panicked the business and investment communities in France that Hollande needs to generate economic growth.  It drove France’s greatest living actor (and perhaps overall artist) to abandon his native country for the greener pastures of Belgium … or perhaps Russia:

Gerard Depardieu, the French actor awarded Russian citizenship this month, is shopping for land near a provincial capital where he plans to settle down after a feud over taxes with officials in his native country.

“He will be happy to find a place to live in Saransk,” Arnaud Frilley, a spokesman for Depardieu, said by e-mail, referring to the capital of the Mordovia region about 600 kilometers east of Moscow. “His desire is to find a quiet area outside the city and to stay in a traditional little wooden house near a grove.”

Frilley, who produced Depardieu’s 2011 film about Grigory Rasputin, the peasant mystic with a hold over Russia’s last royal family, said he’ll fly to Saransk later this month and settle the actor’s residency status. Depardieu likes to live in the places he works and he’s planning to shoot a movie in Russia about Catherine the Great, Frilley said. …

Borodachev said Depardieu wrote “a very personal” letter to Putin in late December in which he asked for citizenship, professed his love for Russia and promised to learn the language. He’s currently the face of an advertising campaign by St. Petersburg-based lender Bank Sovietsky.

Now, according to the investigative media outfit Mediapart, another high-profile French celebrity may be on his way out of the country — only this time it’s not an artist, but Hollande’s predecessor and former leader of France itself.  French investigators uncovered a plan by Nicolas Sarkozy to transfer his wealth to the UK and transform himself into a refugee from the policies of his successor:

Nicolas Sarkozy is preparing to move to London to set up a billion pounds plus investment fund, it was claimed today.

If the move goes ahead, the controversial Frenchman will become the latest to escape a potential top tax rate of 75 per cent in his home country.

How was this discovered?  Sarkozy, who lost his immunity from prosecution after losing his re-election bid, is under investigation for fraud and corruption.  Police discovered a preliminary draft of this plan after seizing his computer records:

Details of the planned move were uncovered during a raid by fraud police on Sarkozy’s Paris mansion last June.

It came within weeks of Mr Sarkozy losing his immunity against prosecution after being defeated by Socialist rival Francois Hollande in the May presidential election.

Now the hugely respected investigative news site Mediapart reports that the ‘first draft’ of Mr Sarkozy’s London project was found by detectives examining his computer files.

A judge has since made Sarkozy an assisted witness in the so-called Bettencourt Affair, in which he is accused of using illegal cash from France’s richest woman to fund his 2007 election campaign.

Those aren’t the only allegations involving Sarkozy and corruption.  There are also claims that he was involved in arms transactions to Pakistan, and that he funneled money to cronies through the contracting of opinion polls.  Post-presidential allegations of corruption are not exactly novel in France, however; Sarkozy’s predecessor Jacques Chirac ended up convicted of embezzlement and abuse of power, but served no time and still drew his pension from his office.

All that aside, just how embarrassing will it be for France to see their former President flee to the UK to escape the onerous tax regime of Hollande and the Socialists?  After Sarkozy and Depardieu, many more may consider taking the same step, and it will be far easier for them to fly under the radar when they do.  The rest of France will probably only notice the capital disappearing from their economy and the erosion of their standard of living as the middle class gets stuck with the bill … as always happens.