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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 January, 2005, 18:43 GMT
Depardieu linked to fraud inquiry
Gerard Depardieu
Depardieu has defended Khalifa from accusations in the past
French movie star Gerard Depardieu will be questioned next week over his links to a failed millionaire Algerian business tycoon wanted for fraud.

Police in Paris are looking into embezzlement claims against the fugitive Abdelmounene Rafik Khalifa.

A second French acting legend, Catherine Deneuve, has also been questioned in the affair.

Khalifa liked the company of stars before his empire collapsed under suspicious circumstances.

When he fled, there was confusion over where his money had first come from and where it had gone when his businesses crumbled leaving 14,000 people without jobs.

Channel launch

Depardieu, star of the movies Jean de Florette and Green Card, was seen at several receptions thrown by Khalifa.

He has in the past defended Khalifa from accusations that the businessman raised his money from dealings with Algeria's powerful army generals.

Catherine Deneuve
Catherine Deneuve was questioned last week

Depardieu has denied receiving money from the tycoon.

Investigators are also looking at allegations that Depardieu used Khalifa's private plane for trips to Marseille and New York.

Deneuve has been questioned in particular about 50,000 euros (35,000) in cash that she allegedly received from Khalifa in 2003 to promote his TV satellite channel in Paris.

Depardieu and Deneuve were at an event in 2002 to launch the channel, which was also attended by Sting, Naomi Campbell, Bono, Melanie Griffiths and Pamela Anderson.

Unexplained cash

Khalifa, the 38-year-old son of a former Algerian minister, saw his group of companies collapse in 2003 under debts and claims of embezzlement.

He never explained the source of the estimated one billion euros with which he built his empire in seven years.

His businesses included an airline, catering operations, car hire, graphic design, construction, a bank and two television channels.

The group started collapsing in 2002 when three Khalifa Bank managers were arrested at Algiers airport with two million euros in undeclared cash in suitcases.

A preliminary criminal investigation into suspected money laundering was opened in France.

In September, French police questioned the liquidator of Khalifa Bank, Moncef Badsi.

He claimed there were financial links between the shady dealings by the bank in Algeria "and spending made by the heads of the group in France", a source close to the investigation said.

Interpol, acting at the request of the Algerian government, issued an international arrest warrant for Khalifa in August 2003, warning he "may be dangerous".

He is believed to be living in Britain, which has no extradition treaty with Algeria.

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