The primary day of February 2017 was a day like several other for Paris executive Sophie Grenier. Then, a mysterious call lit up her phone. On the road was a person, whose voice she didn’t recognize, telling her that the Minister of Defense urgently needed to schedule a video call.
The bewildered Grenier, who on the time was the financial director of France’s chamber of commerce and industry, a corporation representing the business interests of over 2 million corporations, responded immediately. There, suddenly, in front of her on the screen, was France’s then-Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Or so she thought.
Le Drian’s request was easy. Would the chamber covertly transfer 2 million euros to a mysterious satellite checking account, to be able to assist in backdoor hostage negotiations with terrorists in Mali?
Notorious con man Gilbert Chikli openly scammed French businesses and even celebrities out of tens of millions over greater than a decade.Courtesy of Netflix
On the time, wounds from the gruesome 2015 terrorist attacks that brought Paris to its knees — and shocked the world — were still fresh on French hearts and minds. Le Drian’s request appeared like something the chamber had the patriotic duty to get behind.
Once the decision concluded, nonetheless, Grenier couldn’t help but feel weird. She called police, who were equally skeptical. They agreed to perform a dial-in sting operation on the follow-up call, when the funds were to truly be transferred.
With Grenier pretending to play along, cops got the dirty financial details they needed to catch the crafty perp — a person in a fastidiously crafted silicone mask, designed to make him seem like the defense minister. A person, it turned out, law enforcement had been after for years.
Raking in greater than 100 million euros between 2005 and 2017, French national Gilbert Chikli became considered one of the world’s most successful con men, a serious pest to the European elite. Without Grenier’s quick considering, he might need stayed at large indefinitely. As a substitute, he was caught and thrown in jail.
The suave Parisian was a natural born scammer, his family said in a latest Netflix documentary about Chikli’s wild life.Courtesy of Netflix
Now, his story is the topic of a latest Netflix documentary, “The Masked Scammer,” to be released Thursday. He stays unrepentant.
“A scammer tries to get lots of money. Me, I even have had money and I all the time could have. So I actually think it was all a game,” Chikli said. “I even have a present that works — what [is the big deal]?”
The Paris-born Chikli, now in his 50s, began scamming as a bit boy working his way as much as impersonating — and making the most of — the wealthy and powerful.
“By the facility of speech he’d have empty pockets and are available back with full pockets,” his brother Thierry Chikli said. “It really drove my father crazy, he could never find an answer.”
Chikli would strike within the wake of terrorist attacks, using fear and patriotic feeling to bilk corporations out of sizable sums.AFP via Getty Images
As an adult, he hit the massive time once he began masking up as various French CEOs, calling middle managers to demand wire transfers be sent to false accounts. He exploited people’s fears, often operating under the guise of catching a wealthy bank client who was funneling money to finance global terrorism.
Within the months after the London bombings of July 2005 — together with the residual shock from 9/11 — many were quick to oblige, with few, sometimes no questions asked.
“He had an especially calm, controlled, and friendly voice,” said one victim, identified as “Pierre.”
And in contrast to the standard, easy to discover scams, Chikli went to the difficulty of compiling dossiers on everyone he fooled.
“He talked to me about my wife’s suicide, about my children,” Pierre recalled. “He knows things about me, lots of things.”
Sophie Grenier was crucial in helping to catch Gilbert Chikli.
To assist him together with his research, Chikli recruited fellow crooks whose job it was to learn of anything that would compromise the victims, and coerce them into just getting the cash — sometimes as much as 20 million euros — transferred with no questions asked. Certainly one of his associates was past love Shirley Vacaint, who ended up within the sights of the Paris police; they ended up tapping her phone line and raiding her home.
Chikli just so happened to call her on the time, and ended up talking to police major Eric Moreau — the primary of what could be many interactions, echoing the story of impostor Frank Abagnale, whose story was immortalized within the 2002 Tom Hanks/Leonardo DiCaprio film “Catch Me If You Can.”
At first, Chikli tried to bribe Moreau. When that didn’t work, he told Moreau he’d have to return find him in Israel — Chikli had dual-citizenship, and will easily disappear there.
Chikli managed to take the Aga Khan for a cool 20 million euros.Corbis via Getty Images
He did, but he couldn’t leave his old life behind, and he couldn’t help but keep Moreau updated on his progress.
“Gilbert kept my phone number and occasionally would call me to say ‘this attempt didn’t work’ or, if it had worked he called me to say ‘I got you good,’ ” Moreau recalls.
Eventually, Chikli’s brazen nature got him good. Details revealed in considered one of his phone calls to Moreau enabled the police to trace down 1.2 million euros being sent from Mexico to Israel around 2007. However it wasn’t only a bundle of travelers checks — the package was bugged with a microphone, which authorities had hoped would allow them to conduct long-term surveillance on Chikli’s residence.
Chikli fled to Israel when cops in France were on to him.
They didn’t must wait that long — Chikli grew suspicious when the federal government agent, disguised as a delivery man, tried to deliver the package, resulting in a dramatic scene that gave cops, already lying in wait across the home, enough of a reason to raid the house, his brother said.
After being extradited to France, Chikli did 20 months in jail before convincing a movie producer to pay his bail in exchange for the rights to his life story. Surely enough, the Chikli inspired French comedy “Thank You For Calling” debuted in 2015.
Once out, Chikli retreated to Israel, laying relatively low until 2015, when he was spurred over again to place the spectre of terrorism to good use — an instinct that led him to his most audacious scam to this point: impersonating Le Drian.
Chikli was arrested within the late 2000s in Israel.AFP via Getty Images
Tapping into his network, Chikli found an accomplice who could create the right silicone mask, and the sport was on — the video calls, the story of the French nationals trapped in Mali, the necessity for total privacy and a fast infusion of personal funding. Anyone he could hit up, he did — including the Aga Khan, an internationally known spiritual leader and wealthy prince.
“Tomorrow morning we wrap it up, so I would love to shut this case,” Chikli said in archived audio. “It’s essential you send me the entire amount, do you understand? It’s in your interest, your highness.”
Ultimately, Chikli worked the holy man over for 20 million euros.
The key ripoffs went on until the early months of 2017, when a savvy Grenier couldn’t help but scrutinize the deal more closely than the remainder of Chikli’s victims; in the long run, it was a series of spelling and formatting errors that made her feel like something was off. The cops agreed together with her, tapped into the follow-up call, snagged Chikli’s checking account number and the jig was over again up.
Chikli fooled France’s most wealthy by successfully impersonating Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.Corbis via Getty Images
Sensing he’d been had, Chikli fled Israel for Ukraine and was arrested in Kyiv after being surveilled by local authorities. They found pictures of the Le Drian mask on considered one of three phones Chikli was carrying. Cops also recovered evidence that he had ploys to impersonate French President Emmanuel Macron and Monaco’s Prince Albert, for even greater takes.
Chikli, once more, was extradited to France and given seven to 11 years in prison, where he stays.
In a farewell message, Chikli apologized to his victims, but left off together with his own hubris intact.
“I’m Gilbert Chikli, I’ll all the time be Gilbert Chikli, and I’ll leave as Gilbert Chikli. That’s all.”