How a scammer used a silicone mask to bilk millions from the Aga Khan

Reported by CBC on March 13, 2020

Gilbert Chikli was sentenced on Wednesday for a scheme involving a silicone mask and the impersonation of the former French defence minister. He stole over 50 million Euros in total from a group of victims that included the Aga Khan. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

Gilbert Chikli was one of six men sentenced on Wednesday for a scheme in which he used a silicone mask to impersonate a former French defence minister.

Chikli was already well-known in France for his previous scams. But this most recent plot involved him stealing a total of over 50 million euros (over $77 million Cdn) from a group of victims that included the Aga Khan.

Chikli was sentenced to 11 years in prison. His associate Anthony Lasarevitsch was sentenced to seven years; four other men received sentences ranging from 15 months to five years.

New York Times reporter Aurelien Breeden covered the trial. He spoke with Day 6 host Brent Bambury and Chikli’s scheme. Here’s part of their conversation.

How did this scam work?

It was brazen and elaborate. Basically, there was this small group who targeted a huge array of people and institutions. They would call these people and pose as France’s defence minister, who at the time was Jean-Yves Le Drian.

They would provide some pretext saying there was a pressing matter of national security, often a hostage release, and they would say that France urgently needed millions of euros for some sort of off-the-books operation that couldn’t be made public.

They would ask these targets to wire that money to foreign accounts in Poland and China or wherever. So the whole scheme was basically an impostor scheme. It was based on convincing people that this really was the defence minister calling for help.

Chikli would pose as French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, pictured above. He would then tell potential victims that France urgently needed millions of euros for an off-the-books operation that couldn’t be made public. ( JOHN THYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

How many people were taken in by this?

To be fair, most people did not fall for it. Of the 150 or so who were targeted, in the end only three actually sent money. But those three people were very rich.

There was a very wealthy Turkish businessman. There was the French head of a very prestigious wine estate. And the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, who is a very wealthy man. And so those three people alone [were] enough to pull in over 50 million euros.

How much of that 50 million euros was recovered?

Investigators are still trying to trace that money, because as soon as it was sent over, it bounced from shell account to shell account. And at the trial, the court asked for damages to be awarded to these three victims.

But there’s very little hope, at least as of now, that that money will actually be recovered and that those damages will be awarded.

How convincing was this disguise that they put on for Skype video calls?

It doesn’t look great. The fake office that this person is in looks almost comical. There’s a very ancient phone on the desk. And I think someone looking at it now thinks there’s no way people could fall for this.

But what they did [was] very smart. They kept the calls very short and the quality intentionally fuzzy. Everything was done so that if someone was already starting to fall for this, they might think: “Wow, OK, this is the real deal” — even though in hindsight you look at it and you think, “Well, I’m not sure how people fell for that.” But some people did.

Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, imam of the Ismaili Muslim community, was one of Chikli’s victims. (AP Photo/Jan Bauer, Paul White)

What can you tell us about Gilbert Chikli?

He is a larger-than-life kind of character. He’s 54. He’s Franco-Israeli. And he has this kind of swagger about him.

He was sentenced in 2015 to a very similar scam where he would pretend to be the CEOs of companies. He would call up employees and convince them to draw cash from the company accounts and wire it somewhere — again, always under the pretext of some sort of top secret operation. He was very good at sweet-talking people.

How did he end up getting caught for this French defence ministry scheme?

He was actually arrested in Ukraine with another person who was also convicted in this scam. They were in Ukraine for an unrelated reason. Investigators think they were trying to potentially develop a new scam where they would impersonate the prince of Monaco.

That maybe what they were doing in Ukraine — trying to find potentially, you know, someone who could make a mask in the prince of Monaco’s [likeness]. But they were arrested in Ukraine and extradited to France.

What was the reaction in the courtroom when they sentenced Chikli?

He was very angry. There was an outburst on his part. He basically said that the prosecutors were working for the rich. He accused them of doing this at the bidding of the defence minister. And he sounded outraged that he was being asked to pay millions in euros in damages to these three victims.


Written and produced by Steve Howard.

115 thoughts on “How a scammer used a silicone mask to bilk millions from the Aga Khan

  1. Islam does not require Muslims to love and take care of their parents in their old age. That is why Pakistan had to make the law to force its citizens to do what their religion does not want them to do. 

    Mohammad Asghar

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  2. Both beyram and jj are just bats, don’t attach any importance to their stupid opinions.We have been very loyal to our Bharat Desh, but if it isn’t acceptable and you come to annihilate us, there is a big fear of your own annihilation, mind that, no matter the state agencies favor the hindu masses.

    On Friday, January 21, 2022, 05:24:04 PM CST, JJ wrote: Nope. Disagreement. Most if not all Muslims in India are plenty loyal to Boring Arab Islam & too much Islam Pakistan…….instead of to India. Denial does not hack it. If this were not true……….there would be no any prejudice or hatred against “Muslims living in India.” This is the main problem. Indian Muslims must fix this.

    Like

  3. This is the very old record this ass hole is playing, don’t mind him.

    On Friday, January 21, 2022, 05:53:54 PM CST, JJ wrote: Dude Islam-Crazy Qaseeeeeem: It is because of Islam-Crazy Muslims like you…………..”Muslims & Arab Islam are hated around the world.” Try to fix this & have some respect.

    Like

  4. We are hated or not, but the attempts to annihilate us will fail for sure.

    On Saturday, January 22, 2022, 08:36:15 AM CST, JJ wrote: Dude Islam-Crazy Qaseeeeeem: It is because of Islam-Crazy Muslims like you…………..”Muslims & Arab Islam are hated around the world.” Try to fix this & get some respect.

    Like

  5. jj is a bat.

    On Saturday, January 22, 2022, 12:51:20 PM CST, JJ wrote: No worries Islam-Crazy Qaseeeeeeem:………on the contrary, “you will kill the world by your ‘Islamic Boredom.”

    Like

  6. This is a pigs assessment that Muslims aren’t loyal to india.

    On Saturday, January 22, 2022, 01:54:02 PM CST, JJ wrote: Nonsense. “Muslims in India are not loyal to India but loyal to Arab Islam & too much Islam Pakistan.” Main reason for their hatred.

    Like

  7. “UNDERMINES ISMAILI CULTURE”. ??????? Begonia should know that ‘Ismaili’ culture is in fact ‘Hindu Culture’. Just as the Ismaili religion is also Hindu-Ismailism.

    ________________________________

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  8. Dear all P.M.:

    Our humble request to Israeli P.M. and all others: Please have mercy on innocent people and stop punishing them just because they are Muslims the followers of Allah-Creator of the Universe. They are all still the same Israelite tribes of Prophet Israel/Jacob (AS) your own people. We are all still cousins. Such relationship and Tribal ID never changes, no matter what religion one accepts. Let us not hate our own due to their ‘Religious ID of Muslim’.

    Their tribal ID is still the same except the title ‘Muslim’ is the religious ID bestowed on them by Allah-Creator for accepting HIM and HIS final Revelation-Quran.

    They were HIS chosen ones and now they are twice chosen as they have proven their faithfulness to HIM and renewed the Covenant with HIM. Whereas, the others the remnants rejected HIM and HIS final Commands. Including the Commandments brought by Prophet Moses (AS).

    HE has also bestowed on them the Al Aqsa Mosque -Temple Mt. was destroyed twice but re-built by the followers of GOD Muslims, with HIS blessings. Meaning, the lead is in their hands and the authority of Al Aqsa- Temple Mt. is given to them the chosen twice Israelite tribe-Muslims.

    Millions of Muslims are still the same tribal people-consists of Jews, Israelites, 12 tribes of Prophet Israel-Jacob (AS), Africans, Aryans, Assyrians, Arabs, Quraish, Hindus, Punjabis, Ethiopians and Somalians known as ‘Beta Israel. etc.

    Let us stop making a Mockery of our ‘Religious Practices’ that we are celebrating, yet on the other hand at the same time fighting, oppressing killing, and throwing Palestinian Children and students in the Jail. Have mercy on them the down trodden. Why do we need to crucify them like we did to Messiah Jesus (AS)?. Are we competing with the terrorist Putin and Hitler?

    Just let us fear Lord-GOD-Creator of the Universe to whom we will return and pay for our crimes.

    Happy Ramadaan. May Allah bless us all and remove our hatred from HIS followers. And stop the war on Ukraine. A Human Rights Activist/ A convert to Islam. Shalom-Salaam/peace. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> SIGN THE CAMPAIGN. ________________________________

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  9. May Allah reward you.Please boycott all businesses which support Israel such as:NestleMcDonald’s  Coca colaHome DepotDISNEY For complete list go to our web site newtrendmag.orgScroll to Boycott on search engine on top left Sent from the all new AOL app for Android

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