The founder of Cirque du Soleil may find himself walking a legal tightrope after cops busted a cannabis grow on his private island in French Polynesia.
60-year-old billionaire Guy Laliberté is currently in custody of French Polynesian police on the island of Tahiti, facing charges of growing weed. Local authorities reportedly opened a judicial inquiry against Laliberté for drug trafficking after discovering images of cannabis plants on his business associate's mobile phone.
“We confirm that Mr. Guy Laliberté is currently held in custody at the Gendarmerie on the island of Tahiti,” Anne Dongois, head of communications for Lune Rouge Entertainment (one of Laliberté's businesses), said in a statement. “A medical cannabis user, Mr. Laliberté is being questioned in respect of cultivation of cannabis for his personal use only at the residence on the island of Nukutepipi, located in the French Polynesia.”
Gallery — Bitchin' Blotter Papers:
The official statement adds that “Laliberté categorically denies and dissociates himself completely from any rumors implicating him in the sale or the traffic of controlled substances. We [will] collaborate with the local authorities in the investigation.”
The billionaire will appear in court this Wednesday, where a judge will determine whether or not the weed was being grown for personal use or for drug trafficking.
Although Laliberté owns Nukutepipi, where the weed was discovered, the island is still subject to French Polynesian law. The island nation completely prohibits the cultivation, use, or sale of cannabis, even for medical use. “Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe,” the Global Affairs Canada website warns in a travel advisory for the country. “Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines."
Laliberté founded Cirque du Soleil in Montreal in 1984, and continued growing the business until 2015, when he sold 90 percent of the company to an investment firm for $1.5 billion. Some of this money was used to fund the purchase of Nukutepipi, a tiny atoll in the Pacific. The billionaire reportedly lists his private island as a getaway on Airbnb, where up to 52 guests can book a week's vacation for a cool $1.3 million.