What you are going to read about is considered as one of the boldest scams ever. One or more individuals made use of a silicone mask to impersonate France’s minister of defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and were able to scam a total of $90 million from wealthy victims.
Jean-Yves Le Drian served during 2012-2017 as France’s defense minister and is currently serving as France’s Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs. He is considered a prominent political figure in France, but at the same time, an obscure one and that is probably the reason why his identity was stolen. Scammer(s) used a custom silicone mask and had a fake office decorated as the minister’s actual office thus being able to scam various members of the government and wealthy businessmen. Mr Le Drian (fake) asked for financial assistance in order to pay for the ransoms of journalists that had been held captive by Islamists in the Middle East.
The scam was well-executed but straightforward. The scammers would first pose as a member of the inner circle of the minister and reach out to French and foreign businessmen in order to arrange for a conversation with the minister. The first few conversations would take place over the phone where a scammer would impersonate the minister’s voice, but the final touch was a Skype video call.
During the Skype video call, the fake minister was seated away from the camera in a poorly lit room, and it was made sure that the quality of the video was always bad. This helped the scammers in hiding the fact that the minister was a fake. The fake Le Drian would ask the victims to pay huge sums of money to help the state in freeing journalists that were being held by Islamists. However, since France does not officially pay ransoms to the hostage-takers, it was requested that the money was transferred to an account in China.
Scammers were able to defraud between 2015 and 2017 a total sum of around $90 million. Mr Le Drian’s lawyer said, ‘Everything about the story is exceptional. They dared to take on the identity of a serving French minister. Then they called up CEOs and heads of government around the world and asked for vast amounts of money. The nerve of it!’ The case is undergoing investigation and the prime suspect, Gilbert Chikli, has been apprehended. He is a con artist with a Tunisian Jewish background.
Gilbert Chikli has been under the custody of authorities since 2017, but apparently, the fake Le Drian is far from over since the scam began again during the start of this year. French embassies were receiving various news about Foreign Affairs Minister reaching out to influential ‘friends of France’ asking for money using the same technique as before. Three more suspects of French-Israeli citizenship have been captured in connection to this case; however, there is still no word if they were a part of Chikli’s team or working independently.