Amid scenes of confusion at Gare du Nord and empty streets in the 16th arrondissement in Paris, the mass evacuation of the French capital has begun…
Banquiers Sans Frontières, a French charity that supports persecuted bankers around the world, has launched an emergency appeal and started to organise the evacuation of Paris after the latest crackdown on bankers by the French government.
The charity has urged French expatriate bankers and hedge fund managers in London to donate to its emergency fund to tackle what it called an ‘unprecedented crisis’ as French bankers have been forced to flee by the recently-elected Socialist government under President Hollande.
Last week, the government launched its latest offensive in its self-declared War on Finance, introducing stiff new wealth and inheritance taxes, extra taxes on company dividends and stock options and surcharges on banking stocks. The move comes ahead of the expected deployment later this year of a new 75% tax rate on anyone in France earning more than €1m a year – a weapon of economic destruction that has been banned by the United Nations since the late 1970s – and threats to raise taxes on capital gains to the same level as on income.
The charity is working with French banks to co-ordinate the mass evacuation of bankers from the French capital. BNP Paribas has chartered several Eurostar trains to get as many of its staff and their families out of Paris as soon as possible, while Societe Generale has laid on a permanent helicopter shuttle for its senior staff between its headquarters in La Défense and Le Bourget airport. Crédit Agricole has told its bankers that it can’t afford to evacuate its staff, but encouraged them to leave as soon as possible.
Franck de Vitry de Mallman Zaoui, a French banker who is chairman of BSF, said the charity had pressed Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United Nations, to table an emergency debate at the Security Council to bring an end to the persecution. ‘That there are already thousands of French bankers and hedge fund managers living in the UK and Switzerland speaks volumes about the terrible tax persecution of this small minority by the French government over many years,’ he said.
‘As a result of this latest offensive we now have thousands of French bankers and their families arriving in London with nowhere to stay except temporary accommodation in four bedroom townhouses in South Kensington.’
He said he had received as yet unconfirmed reports that overcrowding in South Kensington had forced some bankers to resort to temporary accommodation as far as away as Fulham, Putney, and even Hammersmith. ‘It is inhumane,’ he said.
De Vitry de Mallman Zaoui also called on the UK government, which has said it would ‘roll out the red carpet’ to welcome anyone fleeing from French tax persecution, to do more to help French bankers escape from France. He called on French bankers and hedge fund managers to send their private jets to Le Touquet and motor yachts to Calais to ferry the hundreds of bankers who had made the difficult journey to the north coast of France back to Britain.
The exodus has also forced Switzerland to close its border with France – prompting an angry reaction from existing tax exiles in Geneva who now have nowhere to get a decent meal – although the Belgian, Spanish and German border authorities reported that there was no increase in the number of people trying to leave France.
In Paris, the British Embassy – just a few doors away from the Elysée Palace from where President Hollande is co-ordinating his war cabinet – has been forced to close its doors after it was overwhelmed by hundreds of French bankers claiming British citizenship. It has started evacuating staff and the hundreds of refugees huddled in its courtyard from the roof of the embassy by helicopter, and reported that its wine cellar was running low. A spokesman for the British Embassy said it was unclear whether all of the refugees would be evacuated before French forces, commonly known as ‘La Fisc’, reached the compound.
Elsewhere in Paris, entire neighbourhoods in the 7th and 16th arrondissements, popular with French bankers and senior corporate executives, have been deserted. There are unconfirmed reports that some bankers and their families have been forced to travel in standard class on Eurostar, and that others have even attempted the dangerous journey to Orly airport south east of Paris in a desperate attempt to fly to the UK on Easyjet.
Aux armes, citoyens!
In London, in order to make room for the influx of hundreds of extra French staff, French banks have imposed an emergency citizenship test on their UK workers. One British trader at a French bank said: ‘It’s brutal. We were told that if we couldn’t sing the second verse of La Marseillais and name three number one hits by Charles Aznavour we would be fired on the spot to make way for our French colleagues’.
General Pierre Moscovici, minister of the war on finance, said the new offensive had been a successful: ‘We have forced thousands of our enemies to flee France, and we are closing in on those who continue to fight in small pockets of resistance around the Palais Brogniart and La Défense. People say France is a high tax country but soon there will be no-one left in France who pays high taxes at all.’
The persecution of French bankers is expected to be high on the agenda at secret talks this week during the state visit to the UK by President Hollande.