Cirque du Soleil Founder Detained for Growing Cannabis
Billionaire Guy Laliberté, the co-founder of the biggest modern circus company in the world, Cirque du Soleil, has been apprehended in French Polynesia on suspicion of cannabis cultivation on a private island.
Mr. Laliberté turned himself in and is currently being questioned by authorities in Tahiti. He is set to appear in court on Wednesday; it is not clear yet whether he has been charged or not.
Shortly after being taken into custody, Lune Rouge, an entertainment company based in Montreal, founded by Guy Laliberté, issued a statement denying all rumors of Laliberté’s involvement in the sale and trafficking of drugs in French Polynesia.
The company went on to say that Mr. Laliberté was growing the plant on his private island of Nukutepipi for medical purposes and for “strictly personal” use. According to Lune Rouge, Laliberté is a medical cannabis user.
Polynesie Premiere, a local TV station, reported that police had questioned one of the Mr. Laliberté’s close associates weeks ago on suspicion of drug possession. The TV station says that police apparently found photos of a cannabis plantation on the associate’s phone.
It is against the law to grow, consume, or sell cannabis in French Polynesia. According to the Canadian government’s travel website, punishments for the possession, consumption, and sale of illicit drugs are severe in this part of the world and could cost offenders prison sentences as well as heavy fines.
A former street performer, poker player, musician, and space explorer, Guy Laliberté co-founded Cirque du Soleil in 1984 and has participated in the development of every show since. Cirque du Soleil is an international company with activities on five continents. It employs around 4,000 people and generates an annual revenue of over $810 million. A majority stake of the company was sold off to an investment group back in 2015, but Laliberté kept a minor stake and stayed on for creative and strategic advice.