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Gerard Depardieu in court for DUI charge

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Gerard Depardieu is expected to appear before a French court today, charged with drink-driving.

Gerard Depardieu was arrested in November after a scooter accident in Paris, in which he was found to be three times over the alcohol limit.

Last month, the actor announced his decision to move to Belgium to avoid the French government’s plan for a top tax rate of 75%.

Gerard Depardieu became a Russian citizen at the weekend, receiving a Russian passport.

But on the eve of his scheduled court appearance he was in Switzerland, for the annual Ballon D’Or football award ceremony.

Gerard Depardieu has already pleaded guilty to the charge of drink-driving, which carries a maximum fine of 4,500 euros ($5,880) and a sentence of up to two years in prison, along with six penalty points.

On November 29, he lost control of his scooter in Paris and crashed. A breathalyser test showed he had a blood alcohol rate of 1.8g per litre, more than three times the French legal limit of 0.5g.

Gerard Depardieu, who owns several vineyards, once admitted to drinking up to six bottles of wine a day.

If the actor fails to appear before magistrates, his case could be referred to the criminal court, who tend to be less lenient.

Gerard Depardieu is expected to appear before a French court today charged with drink driving 350x315 photo

Gerard Depardieu is expected to appear before a French court today, charged with drink-driving

Gerard Depardieu’s tax row with the French authorities began last year after President Francois Hollande said he would raise taxes to 75% for those earning more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million).

The film star, renowned for his roles in Cyrano de Bergerac and more recently as Obelix, announced in early December that he would move to Belgium, accusing France’s Socialist government of punishing “success, creation and talent”.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault branded Gerard Depardieu’s decision to move abroad as “shabby and unpatriotic”.

The actor has developed close ties with Russia and during his visit at the weekend hugged President Vladimir Putin, who described him as a friend.

Russia has offered him a flat tax rate of 13% if he stays in the country for more than half the year. On his trip to Russia he travelled to the central region of Mordovia, which has invited him to make his home there.

Mordovia is best known for its Stalin-era gulag prison camps.

But the actor said on Monday he was not turning his back on his country.

“I have a Russian passport, but I remain French and I will probably have dual Belgian nationality,” Gerard Depardieu told French sports channel L’Equipe 21.

Under France’s civil code, dual citizenship is permitted but it is unlawful to be stateless. A person must obtain another nationality before giving up French citizenship.

Gerard Depardieu also rejected claims that his decision to move abroad was to avoid paying taxes.

“If I’d wanted to escape the taxman, as the French press say, I would have done it a long time ago.”

Gerard Depardieu made the remarks in Zurich where he was attending the Ballon d’Or ceremony in the company of FIFA boss Sepp Blatter.

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