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Corruption inquiry launched into Luc Besson's Hollywood à la française
Paris prosecutors are investigating accusations of embezzlement against a pioneering film studio complex launched by director Luc Besson's on the outskirts of Paris.
Prosecutors want to look into the handling of public finance that went into the Cité du cinéma, a vast 156.7-million-euro studio complex at Saint Denis, north of the French capital.
They handed the preliminary probe to the police after state auditors raised suspicions over how the construction of the complex was financed.
Besson's production firm EuropaCorp purchased the site in 2006 but halted the project in 2007 for lack of funds.
The full financing came in 2008 with France's public financial institution the Caisse des Dépôts and the private conglomerate Vinci.
Some auditors questioned the support given by President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, pointing out that Besson had access to the highest levels of power.
According to French daily Le Parisien, "It is obvious that without the active support of l'Elysée [presidential palace] in all stages of the project, none of the massive loans could have been made."
Besson's production firm denies the allegations.
"The probe will show that [the company] did not benefit from any embezzlement of public funds, nor did its directors or shareholders," it told the AFP news agency.
Besson said he had conceived the project in 1997 to rival British studios like Pinewood or Shepperton as there were no adequate facilities in France, as well as to take up the challenge posed by lower-cost eastern European locations.
The acclaimed director, producer and screenwritter, known for films such as The Big Blue, The Fifth Element and Taken, opened his Hollywood-style complex facilities in September 2012.