LATEST: French actor Gerard Depardieu has finally admitted to police he was paid $39,140 (GBP20,600) by fugitive Algerian businessman ABDELMOUNENE RAFIK KHALIFA to attend a soccer match.

The GREEN CARD star has previously described the disgraced tycoon as the "saviour of modern Algeria" and denied taking cash from Khalifa, who is now the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant following allegations of fraud and money laundering after his business empire, including an airline and bank, collapsed in 2003 leaving him with massive debts.

But during a five-hour interrogation by a special police unit in Paris yesterday (09FEB05) Depardieu acknowledged that Khalifa once paid him to watch France's Marseille play an Algerian side, reports British newspaper THE GUARDIAN.

Depardieue, 61 allegedly told police, "On the plane on the way to Algiers for the match, I found an envelope with my name on it on one of the tables. It held GBP20,600 in cash.

"I considered that it was an elegant way of compensating me. It was an agreeable surprise. I was delighted because I had not asked for anything.

"I had rapidly become aware there were problems with the Kalifa group. He never kept his appointments, he took decisions then never followed them up. I cut all contacts with Rafik Khalifa."

Although taking money to appear at parties and soccer games isn't illegal in France, Depardieu could face charges of benefitting from the embezzlement of corporate funds or fraudulent bankruptcy.

10/02/2005 14:15