The trial of French poker player Arnaud Mimran got underway this week, as a Paris court hopes to unravel a tangled web of intrigue dubbed “the crime of the century” by the country’s national media.
It involves high-stakes poker, a €300 million ($345 million) tax fraud, and murder. It also may include an attempt on the life of Cyril “The Frenchman” Mouly, the high-stakes player who appeared on the US poker scene around 2009, trading blows in Bobby’s Room with the likes of Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan.
At the center of all this is alleged to be Mimran, who was arrested in early 2015 on suspicion of tax fraud and money laundering, and is now also being investigated for kidnapping and extorting a Swiss banker.
Mimran is accused of being the ringleader of a “carousel fraud” in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme. Emissions trading is a market-based approach to pollution control in which governments provide economic incentives for pollution reduction.
Carousel fraud, also known as missing trader fraud, involves the theft of value-added tax (VAT), or sales tax, as it’s known in the US, from governments on high-value goods.
€300 Million Tax Fraud
Mimran is alleged to have perpetrated the fraud, along with fellow defendant Marco Mouly, a cousin of Cyril Mouly, and ten others, some of whom were also in court this week. The rest are understood to have fled to Israel and remain at large.
Cyril’s uncle, Samy Souied, also a poker player, was also believed to have been heavily involved in the fraud, before he wound up dead in September 2010. His body was found riddled with bullets in the forecourt of the Palais des Congrès in Paris.
The gang are accused of setting up a complex web of shell companies and offshore accounts to exploit a gaping hole in the emissions trading scheme. The loophole allowed them to purchase millions of dollars’ worth of CO2 emission quotas, VAT free, before selling them again, but with VAT added.
Instead of paying the difference (some 20 percent) to the French government, the fraudsters simply pocketed the money and dissolved the companies before starting the process again.
They used the money to fund extravagant lifestyles that included fast cars, beautiful women, and exclusive high stakes poker games in lavish Parisian apartments. Mimran even dated Paraguayan supermodel Claudia Galanti and became a fixture in the French tabloids.
Suspected of Attempted Cyril Mouly Hit
According to the prosecution, Mimran’s bank account records an income of €21 million ($24 million) between March and June 2009, around the time that the fraudulent commodities trading took place.
But it has been suggested that the late Souied was the initial ringleader of the group, having apparently earned more from the scam, once withdrawing around €100 million ($114 million) from the account of one of the shell companies.
Souied was well-known to the police, having been credited as one of the pioneers of the type of false advertising scam for which his nephew, Cyril Mouly, was recently convicted.
No one has ever been charged for Souied’s murder, although Mimran has long been a suspect. Mimran met Souied three times on the day of his murder, and on the final occasion gave him a gold, jewel-encrusted skull ring.
Cyril Mouly has also said in a testimony that he believes Mimran to be behind a botched attempt on his life in 2014. Mouly escaped, but his driver, Albert Taïeb, was stabbed to death.
Several other murders are believed to be linked to the group, including that of Mimran’s father-in-law, the 76-year old French billionaire and hotelier Claude Dray, who was shot dead in his home in 2011.