* Arnault bid for Belgian nationality causes political
* LVMH head insists he will still pay taxes in France
* Arnault sues Liberation for "public insult"
By Nicholas Vinocur
PARIS, Sept 10 French Socialist leaders and
other leftists accused Bernard Arnault, France's richest man, of
lacking patriotism over his his decision to seek Belgian
Arnault, head of the LVMH luxury empire,
confirmed the move a day before President Francois Hollande gave
details of a 2013 budget that includes a 75 percent supertax on
But he denied that becoming Belgian was a ploy to cut his
future tax bill and cited personal and business reasons,
saying he would continue to pay taxes in France.
The denial failed to blunt criticism at a time when Hollande
is asking the French to bear tax rises and a freeze in public
spending for the next two years.
"Get lost, you rich jerk!" said a front-page headline in the
left-leaning Liberation daily, next to a picture of Arnault
smiling in front of an overnight travel bag.
Arnault announced in a lawyer's statement he was suing
Liberation for public insult over the headline, calling it
vulgar and violent.
Leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon told RTL radio that France did
not need such "parasites" and Socialist lawmaker Bruno Le Roux
said Arnault was "betraying France's recovery".
"When you love France, you don't leave when the weather
turns bad!" Harlem Desir, national secretary of the Socialist
Party, wrote in a Twitter message.
Union leaders accused Arnault of profiting from French
workers only to take his wealth across the border.
"It's immoral when you consider the situation of the workers
on whose backs he makes his money," Francois Chereque, head of
the CFDT labour union, France's largest, told France 3 TV.
"France, love it or leave it," read a headline on the front
page of communist daily l'Humanite.
Arnault, ranked by Forbes magazine as the world's fourth
richest man with a net worth of $41 billion, has argued that he
does more than most for France's economy by heading a firm that
contributes a hefty share of its international trade balance.
Taking the helm of LVMH in 1989, he turned the company into
one of largest luxury groups in the world. His net worth exceeds
the 30 billion euros France is looking to save in 2013.
His nationality move follows an appeal by Hollande to
business leaders to lead by example in accepting tax rises.
Critics dismissed Arnault's argument that he was seeking
French-Belgian dual citizenship for business reasons, saying he
could work there as a Frenchman and already had several holding
Leaving for Belgium could be a first step toward acquiring
citizenship in Monaco, Liberation said. As a Frenchman in
Monaco, Arnault would have to pay income tax. But he could avoid
that if he drops his French nationality after becoming Belgian.
Hollande said on Sunday that Arnault "should have measured
what he was doing".
Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici called the move a mistake.
"Chief executives must be exemplary," Moscovici told RMC
radio. "Mr. Arnault has failed to set an example."
The case showed that tax conventions with countries such as
Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland might have to be
renegotiated in coming years, he said.
Hollande's 75 percent tax on income above 1 million euros
($1.3 mln) per year is the highest rate of any rich country.
Taxes often compel wealthy French to seek fiscal residence
in neighbours with easier terms like Belgium, Switzerland and
Luxembourg, at a cost of some 50 billion euros annually for the
French state, according to a Senate report published in July.
Many converge in Brussels' fashionable Uccle district where
Arnault has had a home since last November, according to the
district's mayor. Armand De Decker.
"He did not mention taxes to me," De Decker told iTele
television. "He has family in Belgium, he has major business
partners and he told me that he wanted to invest more in
business projects here."
($1 = 0.7812 euros)
(Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Angus MacSwan)