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French prosecutors are looking into possible financial misdeeds of director and producer Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, including charges of “misuse of corporate assets” and “abuse of power” for a series of deals between companies, business news channel BFM has reported.
One investigation stems from the transfer of rights for the use of the Cite du Cinema studios just outside of Paris, which opened in Sept. 2012. EuropaCorp leases the building, which is owned by a partnership of the French government bank Caisse des Depots and private developer Vinci Group, under terms signed in 2009. A 2012 deal transferred some rights to a second Besson company, Blue Event. The director owns 62 percent of the publicly-traded EuropaCorp through his FrontLine company, but 95 percent of the privately held Blue Event with EuropaCorp CEO Christophe Lambert.
EuropaCorp then acquired Blue Event in January 2013, and the second investigation surrounds the valuation of the second company at the time of purchase. EuropaCorp minority shareholders allege that Blue Event’s value was boosted by the 2012 rights deal, only for EuropaCorp to pay to reacquire those rights months later in a stock deal that benefited Besson.
EuropaCorp said it is only aware of the investigation concerning the valuation of Blue Event, which was carried out “in accordance with regulations,” it said in a statement released to The Hollywood Reporter. “The values ??were verified by two independent commissioners.” The case has been under investigation for over a year with no action taken, the statement added.
The company said it has no knowledge of the second investigation. “EuropaCorp is extremely surprised to learn from the press that there is a hypothetical second investigation,” it said, adding that no one in the company has been contacted by investigators.
Besson’s FrontLine pays €6 million a year to rent the facility, only half of which corresponds to EuropaCorp, and can sublease space to other companies.
“All of the agreements signed during the period were the subject of a thorough investigation by the Financial Markets Authority (AMF), which found no objections,” the statement said.
The latest investigations are not related to the ongoing investigation conducted by the Court of Auditors into allegations of embezzlement of public funds in relation to the financing and construction of the Cite du Cinema.
EuropaCorp was fined 200,000 in October for inaccurate financial reporting to investors in 2009 and 2010. It was also forced to pay former Besson partner and EuropaCorp co-founder Pierre-Ange Le Pogam $884,000 (€700,000) last August in a case stemming from his abrupt dismissal in 2011.
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