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Billionaire Arnault Rebuts Report on Belgian Holding Companies

Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- French billionaire Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, rebutted a report that he has located parts of his business empire in Belgium in order to escape taxes in France.

LVMH and Arnault’s companies pursue “entirely real economic activities in Belgium, where some have been located for several decades,” LVMH said in an e-mailed statement. “All of their activities are entirely in line in particular with the tax laws of the Kingdom of Belgium and with international law.”

Earlier today, Belgian newspapers De Tijd and L’Echo published a joint report that Arnault operates “letter-box companies” in Belgium worth 7 billion euros ($9 billion) in order to avoid French capital-gains and inheritance taxes.

Arnault, 63, said in September that he was applying for Belgian citizenship for “personal” reasons. While he vowed to continue paying taxes in France, his move sparked criticism from Socialist President Francois Hollande and his government.

Arnault “remains a French resident,” according to the LVMH statement.

John Crombez, a Belgian state secretary in charge of the fight against fraud, told De Tijd that Belgium should hand the Arnault tax case to the French authorities. Belgian Finance Minister Steven Vanackere declined to comment on individual tax cases, the newspaper said.

“If Bernard Arnault is working in Belgium with truly letter-box companies, this has to be signaled to the French tax authorities,” Crombez told De Tijd.

To contact the reporter on this story: James G. Neuger in Brussels at jneuger@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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