French poker player Arnaud Mirman stood in the dock of a Parisian court this week accused of orchestrating a scheme that defrauded the French government out of a “minimum” €284 million ($323 million) in taxes.
He is also strongly suspected of kidnap, extortion and murder, as well as an assassination attempt on fellow high-stakes poker player and fraudster Cyril “The Frenchman” Mouly.
Mimran, who lists his occupation as professional poker player “financier,” was known to play extremely select high-stakes private games in Paris, but has also attended tournaments in Monte Carlo and elsewhere. He registered for the first ever One Drop, back in 2012, but failed to attend.
The fraud, which has been dubbed “the crime of the century” by French media, involved the trading of CO2 emission quotas and exploited a loophole in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme. Emission quotas can be traded as commodities for big money as part of government-mandated economic incentives to help battle pollution and global warming.
Cross-border trades between member states are exempt from VAT, or sales tax as it is known in the US, but trades within France are not. This permitted the fraudsters to set up shell companies and buy millions of dollars worth of quotas from outside France, VAT free, before selling them on with VAT added. They would then simply keep the difference and abscond.
At the time of the illegal trading, between March and June 2009, bank account records show that Mimran earned €21 million ($24 million). His friend, business partner and fellow poker player, Sammy Souied, may have been the original leader of the group, say authorities, but he wound up dead in 2010. He was shot six times at close range by two unidentified men on scooters.
No one has ever been charged with his murder, but Souied met Mimran three times on the day of his death and at their last meeting, Mimran gave Souied a jewel-embossed skull ring.
The group is suspected in several other murders, but police have so far been unable to find evidence that sticks. These include the 2011 murder of Mimran’s former father-in-law, the billionaire hotel owner and art collector Claude Dray.
In a testimony unrelated to this trial, Cyril Mouly, the nephew of Souied and cousin of another defendant in the case, said that he suspected Mimran of organizing an attempt on his life in 2014. Mouly escaped but his driver, Albert Taïeb, was killed.
Mouly enjoyed brief fame in the poker world around 2009 when he turned up at Bobby’s Room in the Bellagio taking on the biggest names in the game and even appearing on an episode of Full Tilt Million Dollar Cash Game.
Little did we know at the time, he was wanted by Interpol for a multi-million dollar advertising fraud. As well as being the subject of an international arrest warrant, Mouly was also the subject of an amusing TwoPlusTwo internet meme, after one poster attempted to identify the mysterious new arrival at the high stakes tables with an unintentionally hilarious sketch.
Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up.