The head of the world’s most famous model agency has been arrested in Paris as part of a police campaign against drug use in the fashion world.
Kate Moss is among the models who were once on Elite’s books.
Bertrand Hennet, the chief executive of Elite World, has been charged with buying and transporting cocaine, in the latest scandal to hit the industry.
The 35-year-old has been charged with buying, possessing and transporting illegal drugs, according to judicial sources.
Police arrested Mr Hennet earlier this week as they targeted drug use in the Paris fashion, nightclub and cinema scene.
Narcotics investigators searched his Paris apartment and his office in the chic avenue Montaigne, near the Champs-Elysées, on Tuesday but found nothing.
They said they knew he had admitted buying 140 euros (£124) of cocaine but had consumed it by the time they of the arrest.
Mr Hennet admitted to snorting up to two grams of cocaine per day during questioning by investigators in Versailles west of Paris.
However he has not been charged with the more serious offence of supplying the drug and has been released on bail.
His arrest followed a bust last month on armed drug dealers, who sold cocaine and cannabis to Mr Hennet and other figures from the Paris nightclub, film and fashion circuit.
The dealers, based in a council estate in the western Parisian suburb of Trappes, were caught in possession of 150g of cocaine, 750g of cannabis resin and wads of cash.
A string of other suspected customers were still being questioned yesterday, with other high-profile figures rumoured to be on the list.
Founded in Paris in 1972 by John Casablancas, Elite Model Management claims to be the leading player in the global industry with 800 models on its books including supermodels Gisele Bundchen, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell.
Famous for its model scouting contest that draws hundreds of thousands of catwalk hopefuls each year, its customers include leading fashion houses like Chanel, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.
The president of Elite Model Management, Gerald Marie, said that he was “surprised” by the affair but the ex-husband of Linda Evangelista dismissed the arrest as an “epiphenomenon,” saying that Mr Hennet had no hand in the day to day running of the agency. Mr Hennet’s father, Bernard, bought a controlling stake in Elite World in 2006 and his son deals plays a purely administrative role. “We see him pass through but he has nothing to do with the models and photos and everything we do here,” Mr Marie told Le Parisien.
This is not the first time Elite has been the subject of scandal. In 1999, a controversial BBC documentary filmed Mr Marie offering an undercover reporter sex for money. During the programme, model Rebecca Howard, a finalist in the 1994 “Elite Look of the Year” final, said that she was destroyed by drugs supplied by the fashion industry. Although the documentary was subsequently discredited in part, it sent shock waves throughout the industry.
Kate Moss, once on Elite’s books, caused much soul-searching in the fashion community after her cocaine use was exposed in 2005. She lost several major contracts as a result, but is once again one of the world’s most in-demand models.
A spokesman for Elite World said the agency “deplores what happened but it concerns the man not the company. This is an isolated case.”