Gerard Depardieu has stayed failed to show up for a pre-scheduled date with a Paris court to face a drink-driving charge, three days after taking Russian citizenship over a tax row.
The Cyrano de Bergerac star previously pleaded guilty to riding a scooter while three times over the alcohol limit in November.
On November 29, 2011, 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, BBC News reports.
In France, a drink driving charge 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.
BBC Paris correspondent, Christian Fraser, reports that Depardieu’s failure to appear before magistrates will now mean the case will turn into a full trial in a criminal court, which could entail a less lenient judgement.
The Green Card star did not have to attend the court hearing. But he could have faced a much lighter sentence if he had simply attended Tuesday’s preliminary hearing and admitted his guilt.
According to The Guardian, Depardieu’s lawyer, Eric de Caumont, told reporters outside the Paris courthouse that his client failed to appear because he was in Montenegro preparing to play the scandalized former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in an upcoming film.
“Despite wanting to be there and meet the judges and in no way to escape justice, Gérard Depardieu absolutely could not be present.”
On Sunday, Depardieu was presented with his new Russian passport in person by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the president’s residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, after the actor arrived in Russia on Saturday.
That dramatic move followed a very public row between Depardieu and the French government over their intention to impose a 75 percent tax on French residents earning over 1 million euros a year.
Following that row, last month Depardieu declared he was relocating acquired a property in Belgium, triggering a storm of protest and debate back in France.
The row accelerated after French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described the actor’s decision to move abroad as “shabby and unpatriotic.” In an open letter response, Depardieu accused President Francois Hollande’s government of punishing “success, creation, and talent.’
Russia has offered Depardieu a flat tax rate of 13% if he stays in the country for more than 183 days a year.
“I have a Russian passport, but I remain French and I will probably have dual Belgian nationality.”
Depardieu also rejected claims that his decision to move abroad was because of the tax row, saying, “If I’d wanted to escape the taxman, as the French press say, I would have done it a long time ago.”
The 64-year-old made the remarks in Zurich where he was attending the Ballon d’Or ceremony in the company of Fifa boss Sepp Blatter.
Last year, Depardieu shocked passengers on an Air France flight when he urinated into a bottle in the aisle, The Guardian notes.