UK & World News
Depardieu Misses Court Hearing For Film Talks
French film star Gerard Depardieu missed a court hearing in Paris over drink driving charges because he was in Montenegro for film meetings, his lawyer said.
The no-show means the case will turn into a full trial - guaranteeing more time in the spotlight for the actor who is in a public row with French authorities over his tax status.
Missing the hearing could also lead to the 64-year-old Cyrano de Bergerac star getting a tougher sentence if convicted - in theory up to two years in prison.
Depardieu is accused of crashing his scooter in Paris with more than three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. No-one else was injured in the accident.
Last month, he bought a house over the border in Belgium, leading to accusations he was trying to dodge a proposed new tax on millionaires. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called the move "pathetic" and unpatriotic.
And this week, Depardieu received a Russian passport from the country's leader Vladimir Putin after being granted citizenship, provoking even fiercer claims that he had abandoned his homeland.
Russia has a flat income tax rate of 13%, compared to the 75% on income over 1 million euros (£814,000) that President Francois Hollande wants to levy in France.
Depardieu has denied he was leaving France for tax reasons.
"I have a Russian passport, but I remain French and I will probably have dual Belgian nationality. But if I'd wanted to escape the taxman, as the French press say, I would have done it a long time ago," he said.
The star did not have to attend the Paris hearing. But many defendants have used similar pre-trial sessions to strike a bargain with prosecutors and accept a lighter sentence in exchange for acknowledging guilt.
"Despite wanting to be there and meet the judges and in no way to escape justice, Gerard Depardieu absolutely could not be present," his lawyer Eric de Caumont told reporters outside the Paris courtroom.
He said his client was in Montenegro negotiating a deal for an upcoming film in which he would play disgraced ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Strauss-Kahn was seen as possibly the next Socialist president of France before a US sex scandal led to his downfall last year.