In a story worthy of one of his hit comedies, French star Dany Boon is reported to have been scammed to the tune of $6.8 million by a man masquerading as an Irish lord and is now embroiled in a legal battle in the Dublin courts to get his money back.
The Welcome to the Sticks and Nothing to Declare star claims to have fallen prey to a man called Thierry Fialek Birles, who has several aliases including Terry Birles and Thierry Waterford-Mandeville.
Boon’s Irish lawyer Rossa Fanning SC told the High Court in Dublin earlier in July that Birles had embezzled Boon via an elaborate network of bogus companies. He said the star was first introduced to Birles by a mutual sailing contact when looking for someone to renovate his classic yacht Umaren.
Reports of the case have started emerging in the Irish and French media in recent days following the lifting of an embargo put in place while Boon’s legal team raced to put a temporary order in place freezing the accused’s assets.
Boon claims Birles told him he was a partner in a company called the South Sea Merchant’s Mariners Ltd Partnership (SSMM) that had been in his family for a century. He also convinced the actor he belonged to an ancient aristocratic Irish family.
According to an in-depth report on the case by The Irish Examiner, Boon claims to have paid €2.2m to SSMM for the renovation of his yacht and then advanced another €4.5m for investment in a Bank of Ireland-backed fund offering tax-free, high rates of interest, on Birles’ advice.
After these payments were made, Birles told Boon that SSMM had been acquired by an Italian family called Rossi, but that he was staying on as an advisor.
A little later, he told Boon he had been fired from the role and advised the actor to sue for his money back. When Boon made inquiries, he was told by a third party with links to the Rossi family that his money had been wired to accounts in South Korea and Panama.
Boon was then tipped off by someone who had been defrauded by Birles in the past. Fanning said Boon had undertaken an in-depth investigation to ascertain the whereabouts of his missing $6.8m before taking the case to the courts.
The investigation revealed that neither the Rossi family nor the Bank of Ireland-backed investment scheme existed; that the Rossi family third party that Boon had been in contact with was in fact Birles, and that an insurance firm suggested by the latter to cover the yacht was registered to a hardware store in Samoa.
Boon’s lawyers have since put obtained a temporary court order freezing Birles’s company and personal assets, which include a large country property and a yacht in an Irish port.
Birles, who is reportedly currently somewhere in the Caribbean, has denied the charges. The case will return to the courts after the long summer recess in September.
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