The founder of Cirque du Soleil says it was all for personal use, but it is unclear if the government of French Polynesia cares. 60-year-old Guy Laliberté is being investigated in conjunction with a drug trafficking case after police saw photos on a man’s cell phone of the billionaire’s alleged marijuana cultivation operation.
The plants are supposedly located on Nukutepipi, Laliberté’s private island, located in the South Pacific in the Tuamotu archipelago. Laliberté’s new company Luna Rogue Entertainment released a statement on Wednesday calling him a “medical cannabis user” whose crop is “for his personal use only.” The company says he is being investigated “for alleged complicity in cultivation, possession and use of cannabis.”
Laliberté has yet to be charged of criminal wrongdoing.
“The disproportionate importance given to this matter, which is generally trivialized for someone in possession of several plants of cannabis for strictly personal use, greatly surprises me,” he said in a personal statement released Wednesday night.
Growing Cannabis for Personal Use is Illegal in French Polynesia
The entertainment mogul turned himself in for questioning on Papeete, the island that serves as the French Polynesian capital. He was detained, held for questioning, and appeared in court on Wednesday before being released.
Police were tipped off to what they say is Laliberté’s cannabis cultivation operation when they detained a man they suspected of drug possession, and found images of the plants on his cell phone.
Laliberté is no longer associated with Cirque du Soleil since he sold off most of his share in 2015, at which time its shows were pulling in $845 million every year. The divestment left him with $1.5 billion. After an aborted attempt to launch a DJ career, he used part of the payout to fund his new corporation, Lune Rogue Entertainment.
Thus far, that project has given birth to a $30 million pyramid known as PYI that houses psychedelic light and sound shows. It debuted in Paris, and is tentatively slated to move to Miami and New York for shows.
The Canadian businessperson got his professional start as a busker, then picked up skills as a stilt-walker and fire-breather. He founded Cirque du Soleil in 1984, and has carefully cultivated a reputation for being both a creative force and an avowed capitalist ever since.
“He’s a winner,” a Montreal tourism CEO told Forbes of Lalilberté. “His name is associated with winning.”
“I’m not stupid,” Laliberté commented for the same profile. “I evaluate danger, but I trust life is good. And I trust that there’s intelligence behind a decision we’re making, and if you want to be a game-changer, you just have to take risks.”
We’ll have to see how that descriptor bears out when it comes to the current cannabis charges.
“Mr. Guy Laliberté categorically denies and dissociates himself completely from any rumors implicating him in the sale or the traffic of controlled substances,” stated his company in Wednesday’s statement.