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Europe

French-Israeli conman jailed on extradition from Ukraine

media Gilbert Chikli in Kiev in September SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP

A conman who swindled companies out of millions by pretending to be their CEO has been jailed in France after being extradited from Ukraine.

Gilbert Chikli, 51, who is known as the "fake chairman" because of his scamming method, was jailed on his return to France on Thursday evening.

In 2015 he was sentenced in absentia to seven years in jail and a million-euro fine for defrauding several companies, including Alstom, Accenture, HSBC and France's Post Office Bank.

Fled to Israel

Like some of the perpetrators of a notorious carbon-tax swindle, Chikli has joint French-Israeli citizenship and fled to Israel in 2009, after being charged and spending several months in detention awaiting trial in France.

In 2012 gunmen sprayed the front of his home in the southern Israeli town of Ashdod with automatic gunfire.

He claimed that they were part of a gang who had hoped to "make use of my talents".

He was arrested in Ukraine in August in the company of another Franco-Israeli, reported by Le Point magazine to be Anthony Lasarevitch, who is wanted in connection with other fraud cases.

During his time in detention in Ukraine he was filmed drinking vodka in his cell, toasting his wealth, swearing never to return to France and abusing the French judicial system.

He was released on bail in September, to the surprise of French officials.

Convinced employees

Chikli, who was born to a poor family in the Paris district of Belleville, swindled the businesses out of millions by convincing employees that he was the company chairman or a secret service agent and demanding the money supposedly to combat money-laundering or terrorism.

In the case in which he was found guilty, he had been paid 7.9 million euros, another payment of 52.6 million had been prevented at the last minute and 20 million more were awaiting verification by the various companies involved.

In total he is believed to have defrauded 33 banks and companies and conned 52 of their employees.

Film based on scam

At the end of September his lawyer, David-Olivier Kaminski, told the AFP news agency that his client wanted to return to France to serve his sentence, while calculating that he might be liable to release, having served 14 months in Israel, 20 months in France and two in Ukraine.

Chikli's story inspired a film, Je Compte sur Vous (I'm Counting on You).

Director Pascal Elbé told the Israeli blog Telavivre that his subject was "an old-style crook, the sort of guy you don't want to mix with, half-mad but he had a great story".

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