It was just a little more than a year ago when director Luc Besson unveiled his European answer to Hollywood, Cite du Cinema. Located just outside of Paris, the $200 million, state-of-the-art film studio was built to allow European films to mount productions that could compete with the U.S. Now, Besson and his company EuropaCorp have become embroiled in still-developing judicial action resulting from allegations that they've embezzled public funds through the mega-studio.
This weekend, French newspaper Le Parisien (which, for the record, is more New York Post than New York Times) ran an article alleging that EuropaCorp may be under investigation by the justice ministry following a memo sent to minister Christiane Taubira in regards to an audit investigation. According to the newspaper, the memo said that EuropaCorp's financing of Cite du cinema was nothing less than embezzlement of public funds.
The report goes on to allege that the project was funded "against the advice of government services" because of former EuropacCorp CEO Christophe Lambert's inside track with Nicolas Sarkozy. So, embezzlement in this case means putting public funds into something that functions like a private company acting in its own interest.
The night after the article appeared, the EuropaCorp fired back, saying they were astonished by the charges, did not have knowledge of the audit court report and that they haven't been questioned by anyone. And, to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, they are now suing both the newspaper and the reporter for defamation.
So far the most major films to shoot at the studio have been Besson's own The Family and McG's upcoming 3 Days to Kill.