France’s leading independent film group, Pathe, recently lost €19.2 million ($22 million) in an internet scam that targeted the mini-major’s Dutch office.
Details of the scam were contained in an Oct. 31 ruling by the District Court of Amsterdam on a lawsuit against Pathe for unfair dismissal filed by Edwin Slutter, Pathe Netherlands’ former financial director. Slutter was fired, along with Pathe Netherlands’ former CEO and managing director, Dertje Meijer, in April after the scam was discovered.
The fraud kicked off in March with several emails apparently sent from the personal account of Pathe CEO Marc Lacan to Meijer, asking her to wire up to €19.2 million in four tranches to the bank account of Towering Stars General Trading LLC in Dubai. The funds were supposedly to be used to acquire a company in Dubai.
Meijer was asked to respect the “strictest confidentiality” about the transaction and exchange emails solely with Lacan’s personal account to ensure that their “discussions remain free of any risk of disclosure and to respect the transaction’s norm” as well as give them an “advantage over [their] competitors.”
Before sending the third and fourth tranches, Meijer forwarded the conversation to Slutter with a note saying, “Strange, is it not?” Slutter later responded: “Curious process. Never experienced anything like that.”
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The fraud was discovered March 28, a day after Meijer was asked to transfer money from the cash pool of the French headquarters to the Netherlands to complete the last part of the transaction.
The court ruling said that Pathe must pay Slutter his full monthly salary of €13,503 from May 1 to Dec. 1.
Lacan stepped down from the CEO’s job at Pathe’s French headquarters in September. The conditions of his exit are unknown at this point, but he officially remains on the board of the company.
Pathe had a hit earlier this year in French comedy “La Ch’tite Famille.”