Actor Gerard Depardieu has launched a bitter attack against the French prime minister over claims he has left the country to escape the taxman. The 63-year-old is the latest wealthy figure to seek shelter abroad since the new Socialist government increased taxes. In a letter to the weekly Journal du Dimanche, Depardieu rejects the accusations and says he is willing to give up his passport because “success, creation and talent are being penalised.” It comes after Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described Depardieu’s behaviour as “pathetic” and unpatriotic at a time when the French are being asked to pay more contributions to reduce a bloated national debt. Depardieu, one of France’s richest actors, recently bought a house in Nechin, a Belgian village a short walk from the border with France, but a third of its residents are French nationals. The actor’s move comes three months after Bernard Arnault, chief executive of luxury giant LVMH and France’s richest man, caused an uproar by seeking to establish residency in Belgium – a move he said was not for tax reasons. Belgian residents do not pay wealth tax, which in France is now levied on those with assets over 1.3 million euros. Nor do they pay capital gains tax on share sales.