High wire: Cirque du Soleil founder held for 'growing cannabis'

Guy Laliberte (pictured in July 2019), a former stilt-walker-turned-millionaire who co-founded the troupe in 1984, sold his last remaining stake in Cirque in February 2020 (AFP Photo/Mike LEYRAL) (AFP/File)

The billionaire founder of global acrobatic troupe Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, has been detained in French Polynesia on suspicion of growing cannabis on his private island in the South Pacific, authorities said.

The Canadian entrepreneur turned himself in to police and was due to appear before a judge later on Wednesday, prosecutors and reports said.

In a statement, his company Lune Rouge said Laliberte uses cannabis for "medical" and "strictly personal" purposes and denied that he was trafficking the drug from his private island of Nukutepipi.

"Guy Laliberte completely dissociates himself from any rumour implicating him... in the sale or traffic of drugs," it said.

According to local television station Polynesie Premiere, police had questioned one of Laliberte's associates some weeks ago on suspicion of possessing drugs and found images of marijuana plantations on their mobile phone.