Cannabis bud and leaf with handcuffs

High-Stakes Player Guy Laliberte Faces Possible Charges After Tahiti Marijuana Arrest

Billionaire Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque du Soleil and, much later, the One Drop clean-water initiative, is expected to face one or more charges in French Polynesia after authorities discovered marijuana being grown on a private island he owns near Tahiti, part of French Polynesia.

The wealthy Canadian national, who began his career as an accordion player and puppeteer before creating a show that morphed into the modern Cirque du Soleil, turned himself in for arrest after the discovery of the marijuana being grown in a greenhouse-like “closed container” on his estate. Laliberte, 60, quickly attested that the marijuana was for his personal, medicinal use, and the French Polynesian officials have not stated any belief that the pot was being grown for distribution or sale.

Guy Laliberté, Founder of the One Drop FoundationNonetheless, Laliberte could conceivable face up to 10 years in prison on any charges (the maximum penalty under French law), though the penalty he’ll face is likely to be far shorter.

Laliberte is famed in poker circles for having lost more than $30 million in the highest-stakes cash games available on the old Full Tilt Poker during that site’s late-’00s heyday. Laliberte reputedly played under several online screen names, but was quickly identified by that site’s sharks. Laliberte’s millions served as fuel for Full Tilt’s high-stakes economy until he tired of the continuing losses and sought other forms of entertainment.

Among those, of course, were his high-flying trip to the International Space Station in 2009. Laliberte plunked down nearly 32 million euros to spend 10 days in space, a stunt he tied in to his ongoing One Drop initiative to draw more attention to the need for clean water for all of Earth.

Then there’s the Tahiti story. Laliberte purchased the island, called Nukutepipi, back in 2007. Laliberte’s 2015 sale of most of his Cirque du Soleil ownership gave him plenty of funds to develop the island, just under a square mile in size, into an exclusive and isolated resort. Groups of no more than 50 people can rent the South Pacific retreat for just a million dollars a week. Among other amenities, Nukutepipi, offers 16 luxury villas, a cinema, shopping, an astronomical observatory, and several sports grounds and facilities.

That’s luxury and exclusivity at its most extreme. Laliberte has also been rumored to be a wild partier for decades, and such a retreat would naturally be attuned to that lifestyle… perhaps a reason why the Tahitian authorities may have been snooping around. Laliberte could also be fined instead of sentenced, though the maximum fine — a little over a thousand euros — is all but meaningless to a man of Laliberte’s wealth. The French laws governing the situation also make no distinction regarding amount of the illegal “soft” drug or its intended use or purpose; it’s strictly about possession.


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