Depardieu questioned in Khalifa enquiry

13th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 12 (AFP) - French movie star Gerard Depardieu was questioned by Paris police on Wednesday about his links to a fugitive Algerian businessman suspected of money laundering, police sources said.

PARIS, Jan 12 (AFP) - French movie star Gerard Depardieu was questioned by Paris police on Wednesday about his links to a fugitive Algerian businessman suspected of money laundering, police sources said.

He was the second French celebrity - following Catherine Deneuve, who was quizzed last week - to be interrogated by a special police unit investigating embezzlement claims against Abdelmoumene Rafik Khalifa.

Depardieu, the 56-year-old star of "Green Card", "Cyrano de Bergerac" and about 100 other films, was seen at several receptions thrown by Khalifa, who liked to surround himself with jet-setters and A-list stars.

Sting, Naomi Campbell, Bono, Melanie Griffith and Pamela Anderson were among guests spotted at a September 2002 bash at his French Riviera villa launching Khalifa TV - a party also attended by Depardieu and Deneuve.

French courts have opened a preliminary investigation into suspected money laundering that targets several companies owned by Khalifa, whose group collapsed in 2003 under a mountain of debt and claims of shady financial transactions.

Khalifa, the 38-year-old son of a former Algerian minister, never explained how he acquired the estimated EUR 1 billion that had let him build an empire that included an airline, catering, car hire, graphic design, construction, a bank and two television channels from nothing seven years ago.

Deneuve was questioned for nearly five hours about EUR 50,000 (USD 68,000) in cash she allegedly received from Khalifa in 2003 to promote the launch of his shortlived Paris-based Khalifa TV satellite channel.

The actress denies accepting cash in return for her attendance at the event.

Investigators interrogated Depardieu for three hours on Wednesday, police said, saying they suspected he had also benefited from Khalifa's "generosity", at least by using private jets for transport.

The actor had fiercely defended Khalifa from accusations that the businessman had raised his money from dealings with Algeria's powerful army generals who are believed to tap their country's oil wealth.

Interpol, acting at the request of the Algerian government, issued an international arrest warrant for Khalifa in August 2003. He is believed to be living in Britain, which has no extradition treaty with Algeria.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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