Convicted fraudster Arnaud Mimran indicted in France for two murders

French investigators charge jailed businessman with murdering his former accomplice in 2010, and his billionaire ex-father-in-law a year later

Simona Weinglass is an investigative reporter at The Times of Israel.

Arnaud Mimran arrives at the Paris courthouse for deliberations in his trial over an alleged carbon tax scam, on July 7, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY)
Arnaud Mimran arrives at the Paris courthouse for deliberations in his trial over an alleged carbon tax scam, on July 7, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY)

Convicted French-Israeli fraudster Arnaud Mimran, who is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence in France, was indicted last week in two separate murder cases, according to French-language media reports.

Mimran, who was convicted in 2016 for carbon VAT fraud, a crime known as the “swindle of the century” in France, was indicted on Thursday on two new, more serious charges.

French prosecutors accused Mimran of murdering his accomplice, French-Israeli fraudster Samy Souied, in 2010, as well as his former father-in-law, billionaire Claude Dray, a year later, according to reports in Mediapart and Agence France Presse.

Souied was shot six times on September 14, 2010, in central Paris by an assassin on a scooter. Claude Dray was shot three times on October 24, 2011, in his mansion in the wealthy Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.

The two murders had for a long time remained unsolved, but in recent weeks investigators made a breakthrough in the case, Mediapart reported.

Prior to his 2016 fraud conviction, Mimran often touted his friendship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he claimed to have supported materially to the tune of €1 million over the years. More specifically, Mimran reportedly told French investigators that he had contributed $200,000 to Netanyahu’s 2009 prime ministerial campaign, an amount that exceeds the NIS 11,480 (€2,922) campaign contribution limit set by Israeli law.

When media reports about purported contributions from Mimran first emerged in June 2016, Netanyahu denied the reports, claiming that Mimran had contributed a mere $40,000 to a fund for Netanyahu’s public activities in 2001, when he was a private citizen.

In 2016, the attorney general’s office announced that it would investigate Mimran’s alleged contributions to Netanyahu, but has not reported on any progress since. Netanyahu is currently on trial in three separate cases of alleged corruption.

Arnaud Mimran (left) vacationing with Benjamin Netanyahu in Monaco in 2003. (courtesy, Mediapart/ File)

Mimran was one of about 50 French citizens, working in teams of three or so, who committed carbon-VAT fraud in 2008-2009. The fraudsters took advantage of differing tax rules in different EU countries to buy and sell carbon credits, or permission to emit carbon dioxide, on exchanges in Europe. The fraudsters would buy the credits in a country with no value-added tax, and quickly sell them in France or other countries that did charge VAT. Generally, merchants have 90 days to remit the VAT they collect to the French government. The fraudsters took advantage of the time window to divert the money offshore and transfer it through a series of shell companies until it effectively vanished.

The French government has estimated it lost €1.6 billion in unpaid VAT taxes this way and the total loss to all European countries is estimated at €5-10 billion.

According to Marius Christian-Frunza, a lecturer at the Sorbonne and author of the book “Fraud and Carbon Markets,” multiple organized criminal groups from throughout Europe masterminded and engaged in the fraud, each trying to get a piece of the action before European regulators figured out what was happening and shut it down in 2009. Thus, Georgian-Russian mafia operating in Spain were likely involved, as were Russian mafia from St. Petersburg, and German, Polish, Bulgarian, and other organized crime groups, according to Frunza.

In France, where an estimated €1.6 billion was stolen, many of the suspects were French Jews who either had or later obtained Israeli citizenship. The team headed by Mimran, Marco Mouly, and Souied, stole €283 million in VAT taxes. Much of the crime, according to a Haaretz investigative report, was carried out from the perpetrators’ computers in offices in Tel Aviv.

Mimran, 49, grew up in an upscale neighborhood of Paris and spent his early career as a stock-market trader. In 2000, he was sued by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for alleged insider trading. He settled the case and agreed to pay a $425,000 disgorgement.

Mimran married the daughter of billionaire Dray and enjoyed an over-the-top lifestyle, while cultivating celebrity friends. In 2003, he was photographed vacationing in Monaco with Netanyahu, who was not the prime minister at the time.

Arnaud Mimran (l), the murder victim Samy Souied and Marco Mouly. (courtesy, Mediapart)

In 2006, Mimran met Mouly and Souied, both of them from downscale district of Belleville, where many Tunisian Jews grew up in poverty. Mouly had dropped out of school at the age of 12 and was reportedly illiterate. He and Souied made a living through various scams. In 2008-2009, they solicited an €8 million euro investment from Mimran in their carbon-VAT scheme.

According to Mediapart, Mimran eventually fell out with Souied over money. Mimran had reportedly invested the most money in the scam, but his partners took a larger share of the loot. Mimran had reportedly asked Souied to entrust some of his winnings to him so he could launder them through the stock market. Souied reportedly agreed, but grew impatient as Mimran dallied in returning his funds.

The two men agreed to meet on September 14 , 2010, in Paris. Mimran brought a ring in the shape of a diamond-encrusted human skull that he had previously gifted to Souied’s wife, but had taken back to enlarge. At the precise moment when he handed the ring to his Souied, according to reports, a professional assassin arrived on a scooter and shot Souied six times.

The diamond-encrusted skull ring that Mimran allegedly handed to Souied at the moment of his murder (courtesy, Mediapart)

In the meantime, Mimran had reportedly left his wife for a Paraguayan supermodel. Her father, Claude Dray, had reportedly grown disgusted with Mimran and testified against him in court on March 8, 2011. He pointed out Mimran’s compulsive spending habits, which included a Rolls Royce, a Lamborghini, a Bentley, jewelry, and his propensity to travel by private plane.

“In France, he has nothing to his name, he revealed, but he has accounts abroad, especially in China,” he said.

When asked if he knew Marco Mouly, Dray reportedly replied, “According to what I know, he and Arnaud are linked to the murder of Samy Souied.”

On the morning of October 25, 2011, Dray, 76, was discovered dead inside his high-security home. He had been shot three times from behind.

Mimran has denied any involvement in the deaths of Souied and Dray.

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