LES ECHOS

Cocaine, Caviar And Charges Of Rape: A Sordid Tale Of Parisian High Society

The heir to the famous Parisian restaurant “La Maison du Caviar” was famous for over-the-top parties and pretty, sometimes drug-dependent young women. Now, two of them accuse him of rape and torture.

Cyril de Lalagade, heir to Paris' Maison du Caviar (Facebook)
Cyril de Lalagade, heir to Paris' Maison du Caviar (Facebook)
Patricia Joly

PARIS - Cyril de Lalagade is, as they say, a young man, born well. He is the heir to the prestigious Parisian restaurant "La Maison du Caviar," which now has branched out worldwide, and is also the Vice President of Caviar Volga. A successful man whose resume hides a troubled past and a love of wild parties, drugs, sex and pretty women.

Two of those women, Jennifer D., 27, and Inès C. de B. 26, fell for Lalagade, and now accuse him of feeding their drug addiction between 2005 and 2009, in order to subject them to sexual practices that they accepted at first but were later physically incapable of refusing.

Caviar, cocaine and orgies in Paris' rich neighborhoods was the setting for the now 42-year-old's parties where he allegedly committed "rape, torture and barbaric acts' for which he is now standing trial.

Lalagade has long been a familiar face for French narcotics officers. Since 1997, he's been in court regularly for traffic misdemeanors, drug consumption and trafficking. He was arrested in February 2006, and sentenced to three years in prison in 2008 for drug trafficking.

At the time, Lalagade admitted he "took too much cocaine" and "liked pretty women." He did, however, deny giving women drugs to force them to take part in S&M practices. He said that he only knew "easy girls," whom he would invite through text messages for parties "that could last for several days' in luxurious apartments, hotel suites or even his grandmother's property outside of Paris.

"The table is full of it, come on over quickly little sister, we're waiting for you. I'm hung like a horse, come quickly," he once wrote to Inès.

According to several guests – including the son-in-law of a former French minister, film producers, luxury real-estate agents and wannabe starlets accepting occasional prostitution – "freebase," burned cocaine that triggers immediate addiction when inhaled, was available for free.

In exchange for a few lines of coke, Lalagade also had Ketamine delivered by a nurse working in a Parisian hospital. This anesthetic traditionally used on animals, is known for its disinhibitive and aphrodisiac effects, and can easily and discreetly be mixed with cocaine. Witnesses told investigators that Lalagade insisted on having sex with the girls at the end of the parties. Those who refused were dismissed and branded as "useless."

When Cyril met Jennifer in 2004, she was in rehab. According to the young woman, he made her "use" again, putting freebase under her nose. At the time, he already had two partners, who each gave him a child. In 2005, he met Inès, then a model for the famous Elite agency. "He was unstoppable when he took freebase," she told investigators, saying she verbally refused some sexual practices but was physically incapable of fighting back because she was under the influence of drugs.

"I didn't know who I was anymore. I told him I didn't want to do it but he forced her to have anal sex," she told investigators. He also allegedly burned her arms, legs and nipples with a lighter designed to light his freebase pipe.

Grandma gets involved

Odette de Lalagade, Cyril's 89-year-old grandmother, told investigators that all these girls who were once hanging on to her grandson were now attacking him and that it was "sad and pathetic." About Inès, whom she only saw once, she said: "I could immediately tell she was trouble because she was drugged out."

The grandmother even joined forces with the girl's father for a while to try and put an end to their relationship. Until "he decided to send Cyril to prison…"

According to "Minouche" as Cyril calls his grandmother, the young man can be "mean in words but not physically." She brought him up as a little prince after his parents divorced when he was just a baby. His father, an alcoholic, broke all contact with his family. Cyril was a good student in high school but things went downhill when he got to college. He never graduated and was declared unfit for military service after deserting for 2 months.

To get him off the streets, Odette who was running the family business since the death of her husband in 1993, put him on the company's payroll, giving him 7,000 euros a months for very scarce work. His "job" took him to Florida for a while to develop the company's activity of selling caviar and Russian salmon created in 1923 by his grandfather.

In 2000, he made it back to France as a clandestine passenger on the sailboat of a family friend. He had just escaped an FBI drug bust.

A skillful rider, swimmer and skier, he also took part in the famous Le Mans 24 hours car race. With his good looks, Cyril was the cliché of a rich boy, an image that helped him make important friends. He even became an informant for the French narcotics brigade and swears he helped himself to the drugs that were seized.

Irresistable St. Tropez

On a flight from France to the US in 2001, he made another important friend, an assistant prosecutor for a Paris court. The 50-year-old who was going through a divorce at the time found him "endearing, charming, polite with his heart on his sleeve." A year later, Cyril introduced him to his mother, who eventually moved in with the magistrate after the death of Cyril's beloved 19-year-old step-sister in a car crash.

Questioned by investigators back in 2007, the magistrate denied knowing anything about Cyril's offences. But the tape of a very tense phone conversation in July 2006 showed otherwise. Cyril's mother accused him of not doing anything and the magistrate replied that he helped her son "avoid prison." As proof, his promise to organize a lunch, "once the case is settled," with the judge who decided to put Cyril under judicial control.

But Cyril doesn't do well with authority. Under house arrest at night since his 2006 sentence for drug trafficking, he wasn't able to resist escapades to St. Tropez, saying he had to be there for business. He once skipped an appointment with a judge, sending a doctor's note from Megeve, the luxurious ski resort in the French Alps. A psychiatric evaluation in July 2007, while Cyril was in jail, noted a "potential for dangerous behavior," and no sign of regret or guilt.

In April, he met Inès even though he wasn't supposed to contact his accusers. On May 9, the police found the young woman barefoot, hiding in the backstairs of her lover's 400-square-meter apartment on Paris' posh Avenue Foch. Clearly intoxicated, she first said she had voluntarily agreed to meet him. Several days later, once sober, she told investigators that she'd been "set up" by a common friend, who hoped the reunion would prevent her from testifying against Cyril during the trial. Cyril said Inès had spontaneously decided to drop the charges she brought against him originally because of problems in their relationship and the influence of Jennifer's father, a Lebanese businessman who, he says, paid her to press charges.

When Inès' mother found out her daughter was seeing Cyril again, she pressed charges for "abuse of weakness' and "incitement to consume narcotics." Cyril is in detention awaiting trial. On June 4, Inès' mother wrote a letter to the Paris prosecutor denouncing "a real network dedicated to maintaining a state of psychological and physical dependency." The trial, which was set to begin this week, has been postponed until further notice.

Read more from Le Monde in French

Photo - La Maison Du Caviar's Facebook page

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Society

How The Top Collector Of Chinese Art Evades Censors In New Hong Kong Museum

Swiss businessman Uli Sigg is the most important collector of Chinese contemporary art. In 2012, he gave away most of his collection to the M+ in Hong Kong. Now the museum has opened as the Communist Party is cracking down hard on freedom of expression. So how do you run a museum in the face of widespread censorship from Beijing?

''Rouge 1992'' by Li Shan at the M+ museum

Maximilian Kalkhof

The first test has been passed, Uli Sigg thinks. So far, everything has gone well. His new exhibition has opened, visitors like to come, and — this is the most important thing for the Swiss businessman — everything is on display. He has not had to take an exhibit off the list of works.

The M+ in Hong Kong is a new museum that wants to compete with the established ones. It wants to surpass the MoMa in New York and Centre Pompidou in Paris. Sigg, a rather down-to-earth man, says: “There is no better museum in the whole world.” That is very much self-praise, since Sigg’s own collection is central to the museum.

The only problem is: great art is often political; it questions the rulers. Since the Chinese Communist Party has been cracking down on critics and freedom in Hong Kong, the metropolis is a bad place for politics and art. So how did the collection get there?

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