Carbone: the true story behind Olivier Marchal’s film

In 2017, Olivier Marchal directed Carbone, notably with Michaël Youn and Benoît Magimel, a film inspired by the VAT scam on carbon quotas.

carbon : Olivier Marchal handles the finances

Former police officer turned director, Olivier Marchal became famous for cold and dark films, more or less related to the world of the police. He stages his own the first feature film in 2001 with Gangsters. Later he began to make a name for himself with outstanding works such as 36 Quai des Goldsmiths (2004) and Lyonnais (2011). He was also involved in the series bravoas creator and screenwriter of season 1 and signed his seventh feature film, Overeating (2022) for Prime Video.

Benoît Magimel – Carbon ©EuropaCorp Distribution

But in 2017, Olivier Marchal left the police universe to stage his most atypical work: carbon. Worn by Laura Smith, Gérard Depardieu, Michael Youn (in a counterintuitive role)rapper Gringe and the actor Benoit Magimel, carbon tells how Antoine Roca, an ordinary man, develops a scam that will become the heist of the century.

A look back at the case that inspired Olivier Marchal

For his the sixth feature filmOlivier Marchal was inspired by a real case that shook the world of French finance in 2008. Indeed, carbon it is based on his story VAT fraud on carbon quotas. In 2005, a new system was introduced for large companies. To limit greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, each company has a quota that must not be exceeded, set by the European Commission.

For companies that emit less CO2 than their allowances, they can resell these allowances to other companies that exceed their personal limit. Independent firms are then created to mediate between the companies selling their shares and those buying them.

Benoît Magimel’s character in the carbon then decide to create management companies tax-free aid abroad to resell in France, adding 19.6% VAT. A VAT that he obviously keeps for himself, instead of paying to the state. A scam made possible by the fact that carbon quotas leave no footprint.

An impressive jackpot

From this scheme, the people involved drew, from November 2008 to June 2009, 1.6 billion euros in France AND 5 billion in Europe. Of course, after a few months, the Caisse des Dépôts notices the fraud. This led to a series of arrests in the early 2010s. A few months later, the VAT on carbon credits was removed to prevent any further fraud.

Thus, Olivier Marchal was inspired by this historic trick to perform Carbon. But the director made it clear, in the press kitthat its purpose was simply to transcribe history and in no way to legitimize the act of his characters:

This financial fraud is of course brilliant, but its effects are fed back to the taxpayer through taxes, so it was impossible for me to legitimize the actions of these people. In fact, these people basically had no problem with money: they acted for fun. It was more interesting to refocus things around a boss on the verge of destruction.

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