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Does Depardieu herald Russia as a tax haven for Europe?

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"If someone like Depardieu wants to be a Russian citizen, that's good. Putin made a beautiful gesture," by granting his wish, says Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the the official Institute of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Moscow.

"If rich people want to come here, why not? Plenty of talented Russians, like the tennis player Maria Sharapova, live in the US but hang on to their Russian passports.... It's not just about patriotism, but also about money. So, let rich people rush here and pay that 13 percent to the Russian treasury," he adds.

But Rustam Vakhitov, head of tax practice at the Moscow office of International Tax Associates, a Dutch tax consultancy, says that if things were that simple, rich tax evaders would have been flocking to Russia since the flat tax was initiated about a decade ago.

"In principle it's possible that rich Europeans could manage to maintain residency in Russia," by utilizing loopholes to get around the six-month-per-year residency requirement to be eligible for the 13 percent rate, he says.

"But they'd have to spend a few months here. In practice, the number of Europeans who'd be willing to come and live in Russia is probably quite limited," by a variety of factors, including distance from Europe, lifestyle and language, he says.

"Some may come here. I'm not saying Russia's a bad place, but there are other countries that probably offer better terms," for wealthy tax fugitives, he adds.

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