Quebec billionaire and Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté has been detained for growing cannabis on his private island in French Polynesia.
Prosecutors in Papeete, the capital city, confirmed to Agence France-Presse that Laliberté is in custody in Tahiti.
Laliberté is expected to appear Wednesday before a judge who will determine whether the drugs were being trafficked. It is unclear whether Laliberté has been charged.
In French Polynesia, it is illegal to grow, consume or traffic cannabis, according to a spokesperson for the Gendarmerie de Polynésie française, the national police force.
A few weeks ago, local authorities intercepted someone close to Laliberté for the possession of cannabis and found pictures of plantations on his mobile phone.
Laliberté’s company, Lune Rouge, issued a statement on his behalf, saying he uses marijuana for medical reasons, and grows and consumes the cannabis on his private island for his own personal use.
Laliberté “categorically denies and dissociates himself completely from any rumours implicating him in the sale or the traffic of controlled substances,” the statement said.
The Canadian government’s travel website states that in French Polynesia, “penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.”
Laliberté co-founded Cirque du Soleil, an international circus company, in 1984.
The Montreal-based company sold a majority stake to an investment group led by global investment firm TPG in 2015, but Laliberté maintained a stake in the business, and continues to provide strategic and creative input.
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