Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique was the first to break the news of Arnault's decision on Saturday, after Georges Dallemagne, the chairman of Belgium’s naturalisation committee, had insisted that "the case will be treated like any other.“
“There are 47,000 on the table. Our committee received the request last week,” Dallemagne said.
Then on Sunday, luxury giant LVMH, of which Arnault is the chairman and CEO of, confirmed Arnault’s request, but stressed that the billionaire would remain a taxpayer in France.
But the case still manage to catch the attention of Francois Hollande, who called on Arnault to show his “patriotism”, with a new, temporary tax for anyone earning more than 1 million euros ($1.28 million) a year looming.
“Our country must be able to count on everyone’s contribution to face the deep economic crisis,” Hollande said. “Everyone must take part, and I note Arnault said himself he will contribute.”
Arnault, who is worth over $41 billion according to Forbes, has been fiercely critical of Hollande's new policies in the past. The news of him applying for Belgian citizenship as such automatically sparked debate among analysts about his true motivations.
The Wall Street Journal for instance doubted Arnault’s immediate statements.
“Arnault says tax rates have nothing to do with his new passport. Sure,” the WSJ wrote sarcastically. “No doubt Bernard Arnault, France's richest man, was not thinking about his tax bill when he applied in August for a Belgian passport.”
“No doubt the Socialist French government's plan to impose a 75 percent tax on millionaires was the furthest thing from his mind when the 63-year-old native of northern France suddenly spied exciting business opportunities in, er, Liege.”
Speaking to FRANCE 24, a Paris-based economist, who preferred to remain anonymous, also recalled Arnault’s actions the last time a Socialist Party candidate – Francois Mitterand – was in power in 1981. Back then, Arnault had uprooted his family and headed to the United States for three years.