Well, probably they're aware that Russia remains a place where you can't trust the courts, where you can't count on the law to protect your assets, and where your physical and commercial security depends on your relationships to the people in power. Hmm, on second thought, maybe Depardieu does know this. If his harsh talk about Putin's critics is any indication, he's certainly working overtime to suck up to his friend the president.
Depardieu clearly enjoys that special treatment from Czar Vladimir, and, indeed, this is precisely what he's banking on. He doesn't care about tax law. It's precisely the absence of the rule of law that he likes. And if you're a marquee name who happens to be friends with the guy in charge, why wouldn't you? Most Russians don't have that luxury, of course. But that's their problem (as Depardieu would presumably say). To my ears, he actually sounds relatively sincere in his paeans to the system that Putin has built, talking enthusiastically about the "great democracy" that reigns in Russia.
In this, I suspect, Depardieu hearkens back to a long line of other Frenchmen who have trooped off to Russia in the past, seeking various versions of the despotic utopias they were trying to push at home. The lifelong Marxist Jean-Paul Sartre visited the Soviet Union in the early 1950s and couldn't see anything wrong. When the Marquis de Custine traveled to the Russia of Czar Nicholas I in the late 1830s, he was determined to hype the virtues of one-man rule. (To his credit, he ended up being thoroughly disillusioned by the reality he encountered.) And Joseph de Maistre gravitated to the unforgiving court of Catherine the Great, which he saw as the embodiment of everything admirable that had been destroyed by the hated French Revolution.
I doubt that Depardieu has the brain power of these illustrious forbears. But what's striking is that he decided to go that one step farther by actually becoming Russian. And it's this that has made his critics especially angry. How could he do such a thing?
Well, of course, he's free to choose any citizenship he wants -- just like the rest of us. But it's also worth pointing out that Depardieu's story is a radical outlier, anything but typical of current global migration flows. The overwhelming majority of the other people applying for Russian citizenship each year are either ethnic Russians who live in other republics of the former Soviet Union, or non-Russian citizens of those same countries who yearn to escape regimes that are even more repressive or economically underdeveloped. (That's right, Tajikistan, I'm talking about you.) The number of applicants from the countries of the developed world (by which I mean not only the "West" but also the equally prosperous democracies of the East) is miniscule.
The reason, presumably, is that most people in the world who chose to move to a new country don't make that decision based exclusively on tax rates. (Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who decided to renounce his U.S. citizenship in 2011 in order to maximize his take from the initial public offering of the company he helped to create, is another exception that proves the rule.) Most migrants take a hard look at the relative freedom, security, and prosperity of the place they're planning to move to -- a set of criteria one might sum up in the phrase "the rule of law." (Actually, Saverin currently holds citizenship in his home country of Brazil, which is democratic and prosperous, so perhaps he fits this pattern too.)