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Turkish business tycoon defrauded of nearly €45 mln, not €4.1 mln as he claims: columnist

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A columnist has revealed, citing a court record as proof, that Turkish business tycoon İnan Kıraç, who said he was defrauded of €4.1 million by infamous Franco-Israeli scammer Gilbert Chikli in 2016, actually lost nearly €45 million in the fraud.

Chikli and his associate Anthony Lasarevitsch achieved notoriety by orchestrating a scam in which they conned their victims by impersonating then-French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian between 2015 and 2017.

They are known to have contacted wealthy European figures under the guise of asking for their help in a covert French operation. After an initial phone call, they’d arrange a video meeting in which someone would wear a silicone mask bearing the likeness of Le Drian while sitting in an office that looked convincing enough to trick an unsuspecting target.

Gilbert Chikli listens to a translator on September 26, 2017 in Kyiv as part of his trial for tricking dozens of French banks and businesses into handing over millions of euros. – (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP)

According to a report by the BBC, it was during these calls that the fake Le Drian told his targets the French government needed their help paying ransom for journalists being held hostage by extremists in the Middle East. Since the French didn’t pay ransom, the money would have to be wired to a Chinese bank account that could not be linked to the government.

After Chikli was jailed in France following his extradition from Ukraine in 2017, French media claimed that he scammed an estimated €80 million from wealthy victims, with more than half the sum coming from Kıraç. The businessman, however, claimed that the French media was exaggerating the situation and that the amount he lost in the fraud was only €4.1 million.

Turkish media accepted Kıraç’s statement and lost interest after Ertuğrul Özkök, a columnist for the Hürriyet daily, said in a column in February 2019 that he personally spoke with Kıraç and that the businessman confirmed the payment he wired to a Chinese bank upon instructions from the scammer.

“I was suspicious when I was told to send it to a Chinese bank and only found out that I was [defrauded] when I called the French Embassy in Turkey,” Özkök quoted him as saying.

In her column for the T24 news website, journalist Cansu Çamlıbel on Friday mentioned journalist Evan Ratliff’s podcast titled “Persona: The French Deception” that tells the story of the con artist.

Çamlıbel said that in the sixth episode of Ratliff’s podcast, which is titled “The Fat One” and was released on July 4, the journalist reveals the truth behind the “lie that Kıraç has been telling for years,” using a copy of the audio recordings that the businessman recorded himself.

In the recording, which Kıraç handed over to the French authorities after realizing he was conned, the businessman is heard asking Chikli in English when the French government would pay his money back.

Ratliff also says according to court records, the total amount of money transfers Kıraç reported to the French authorities exceeded $50 million.

Çamlıbel said that after listening to Ratliff, she also tried to access the same information and documents that he had and although she couldn’t find the original voice recording, she managed to find “a crucial court record” that reads Kıraç sent a total of $54.9 million to accounts in Hong Kong and Shanghai between Nov. 28, 2016 and Dec. 10, 2016.

Showing a photo of the court record, the columnist cited the document as saying that the “actual loss suffered by İnan Kıraç amounts to $47,430,000 or approximately €45 million at the EUR/USD exchange rate at the time of the events.”

In March 2020, Chikli and Lasarevitsch were sentenced to 11 years in jail, although these were reduced on appeal, according to The Times. They were also fined €2 million and €1million, respectively.

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