November 14, 2019 / 12:48 PM / a month ago

Cirque de Soleil founder released after detention for growing pot

FILE PHOTO: Guy Laliberte, founder and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, welcomes Russian spectators before the preview of Cirque du Soleil's new show "Varekai" in Moscow October 22, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov/File Photo

(Reuters) - The founder of Cirque de Soleil, Guy Laliberté, was released after being taken into police custody in French Polynesia for growing cannabis, Laliberté’s investment firm said on Wednesday.

Montreal-based tech and innovation investment company Lune Rouge said Laliberté, 60, was questioned regarding cannabis cultivated for his personal use at his residence on Nukutepipi, a small island in the South Pacific cluster around Tahiti.

The firm said in a statement that Laliberté, listed by Forbes as a billionaire in its 2019 list, had not been charged with drug trafficking and left the courtroom without any conditions on Wednesday at 19:30 ET.

Laliberté “categorically denies and dissociates himself completely from any rumors implicating him in the sale or the traffic of controlled substances,” Anne Dongois, head of communications for Lune Rouge, said in an emailed statement, describing him as a medical cannabis user.

Reuters could not immediately reach officials in French Polynesia for comment.

The company is collaborating with local authorities on the investigation, and Laliberté will continue to cooperate with the judicial authorities of French Polynesia, Lune Rouge said.

Laliberté founded Cirque de Soleil in 1984 in Montreal, turning a passion for acrobatics and circus acts into a global entertainment empire.

In 2015, a consortium led by U.S. private equity firm TPG Capital Management acquired a majority stake in Cirque de Soleil, with Laliberté’s family trust retaining a 10% stake.

Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Additional reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Patrick Graham

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