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Ex-Cinar CEO Hasanain Panju Arrested

Nearly a dozen years after scandals at Canadian cartoon-maker surfaced, Quebec police make arrests.

TORONTO -- Quebec police on Wednesday made a surprise arrest of former Cinar CEO Hasanain Panju, and issued arrest warrants for Cinar co-founder Ronald Weinberg and two former business associates.

The Sureté du Québec took the actions after over a dozen years of police investigations into Cinar Corp., Canada’s high-riding animation producer that was felled during the late 1990s by a series of corporate scandals.

Quebec prosecutors in 2003 decided against bringing tax fraud charges against Cinar executives after a lengthy investigation by the RCMP into the Canadian cartoon producer's representation of TV scripts to secure tax credits.

But Wednesday’s surprise police action appears to focus on off-shore investments allegedly made by Cinar executives between August 1998 and March 2000.

The Sureté du Québec allege Panju and Weinberg invested Cinar funds without the knowledge or approval of the company’s board of directors, the Montreal Gazette newspaper reported late Wednesday.

Quebecor police also reportedly issued arrest warrants for John Xanthoudakis, president of Norshield Financial Group, and Lino Pasquale Matteo, president of Mount Real.

In all, 36 fraud-related charges will be laid against all four Quebec businessmen as part of the indictment. 

Montreal-based Cinar Corp. was eventually purchased in 2004 by a consortium led by Nelvana co-founder Michael Hirsh, and rebranded as Cookie Jar Entertainment.