As a documentary that delves deep into the way a single man managed to con French natives out of millions over a period of nearly 15 years, Netflix’s ‘The Masked Scammer’ is simply riveting. After all, it not just charts the dirty work put forth by Gilbert Chikli through the eyes of officials and victims alike but also shines a light upon his core motives with the help of a few loved ones. So now, if you wish to learn more about the same, along with details of his ultimate apprehension, the legal penalties handed down to him, as well as his current standing, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Gilbert Chikli?
Gilbert can honestly only be described as a lifelong swindler who has never wasted an opportunity to utilize his assertiveness, charm, and self-confidence to manipulate unsuspecting individuals. It actually all began when he was a young boy growing up in the not-so-well-off Belleville neighborhood of Paris, France, with a garage worker father, a stay-at-home mother, and four siblings. That’s because he’d quickly realized they had genuine financial worries and took it upon himself to curb them — always returning home with full pockets thanks to “the power of speech,” per the film.
However, it was in 2005 that Gilbert broke every bound by posing as the Chief Executive Officer of several banks, just to call their middle managers and demand wire transfers to fictitious accounts. He actually did so under the guise of catching banking clients who were financing global terrorism, exploiting people’s despair since the London bombings had come to pass mere months prior. As if this is not enough, he reportedly always had detailed dossiers on everyone he wished to target so as to ensure he had something concrete against them if they ever failed to comply willingly.
Gilbert’s sheer success thus came as no surprise, yet a significant amount of credit goes towards his ability to maintain a sense of control while still seeming calm, friendly, and kind during a job. Then there’s the fact he often recruited fellow crooks to completely handle other aspects, enabling them to rake in millions of euros at a time — sometimes even close to €20 million ($2.10 million). But alas, the cell number he was using to make such fraudulent calls was soon traced to his abettor/then-girlfriend Shirley Vacaint, which led officials to positively identify him as the mastermind.
Though the truth is Gilbert had already escaped to Israel by this point without any worries owing to his dual citizenship, from where he not only mocked Paris police but also continued his criminality. He was arrested in 2007 once local authorities noticed $1.2 million were suspiciously being sent to him from Mexico in the form of traveler checks, following which he was extradited to his homeland. The conman hence spent nearly 20 months behind bars before posting bail, only to then sell the rights to his story (immortalized in the 2015 movie ‘Thank You For Calling’) and again flee.
Gilbert seemingly kept a low profile in the years to pass; until 2015, when the spark of terrorism again struck France, and he decided to impersonate renowned Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. That’s when he targeted the elite community — from finance executives to Chateau owners to the Aga Khan — by utilizing a perfect silicone mask, video calls, and the tale of needing to free terrorist-kidnapped nationals via private funding that would be reimbursed. Virtually everyone fell for this trap except high-ranking manager Sophie Grenier, who noticed the discrepancies in documents and immediately contacted the police to help bring matters to a close.
Where is Gilbert Chikli Now?
Gilbert had reportedly sensed he’d been caught, so he ran off to Ukraine and was eventually apprehended in the nation’s capital of Kyiv on an International warrant following local surveillance. He was again extradited to France, where audio recordings of his calls as well as photo evidence indicating he was planning a bigger hoax involving the impersonation of Monaco’s Prince Albert, led to his conviction. While the scam master was found guilty in absentia to 7 years in 2015 for his 2005-2006 ruse, he was sentenced to 11 years more, plus a €2 million fine ($2.28 million), on his 2015-2017 actions in March 2020. It has been reported he managed to swindle over €100 million ($114.2 million) when he was active. Therefore, today, in his 50s, Gilberto remains behind bars — he will likely be released in 2027 since his sentence was later reduced to 10 years.