One week after police issued a warrant for his arrest, Ronald Weinberg, the former president of Cinar, the once highly successful animation company at the centre of a multi-million-dollar fraud scandal, has given himself up to police.
Mr. Weinberg, 59, was taken into custody by Sûreté du Quebec officers late Thursday night at Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport after arriving on a flight from the Dominican Republic. He is to appear in court on Friday.
Once a powerful figure in the entertainment business, Mr. Weinberg has been a fugitive since police issued an arrest warrant for him and three other company executives last week. The four face a total of 36 fraud and forgery-related charges in a bizarre tale dating back to 1998 that saw the producer of animated children's television show get mixed up with allegations of forgery and offshore bank accounts in the Bahamas.
Police say Mr. Weinberg and Cinar's former chief financial officer, Hasanain Panju, were allegedly involved in redirecting company funds to offshore accounts without the board's consent. According to the arrest warrants, Mr. Panju and Mr. Weinberg used "deceit, falsehood and other fraudulent means" to allegedly drain the company funds.
The former president of investment firm Mount Real, Lino Pasquale Matteo, was an important associate who allegedly used his company to cover the scam, police allege.
Mr. Panju and Mr. Matteo appeared in court shortly after their arrest last week and were each released on $50,000 bail.
The fourth man, John Xanthoudakis, former president of Norshield Financial Group and an associate of Mr. Weinberg's, still remains at large. He is considered by police as a key figure in helping to set up the alleged fraud. Police refused to confirm whether they were in contact with Mr. Xanthoudakis' lawyers in order to arrange for his arrest.
It is alleged that under Mr. Xanthoudakis, the missing Cinar money had gone into a Norshield hedge fund, which went bankrupt in 2005. Cinar shareholders sued Norshield for the alleged missing money but Mr. Xanthoudakis denied any wrongdoing. Police believe that Mr. Xanthoudakis was the mastermind behind the alleged Cinar scandal by helping Mr. Weinberg set up a scheme that eventually brought down one of the jewels of the entertainment world.
Close to 2,000 retail investors lost millions as a result of the scandal. For many, Mr. Weinberg's arrest would be but a small consolation prize knowing all too well that after so many years, most of their money will have vanished.
The SQ reiterated that the arrests came as a result of a ten-year investigation that was complicated and involved the time-consuming process of perusing thousands of pages of documents.
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