Friday, August 21, 2020

58. PRINCE OF PLAY





On Retainer to Prince Albert of Monaco

July-August 2005


The day after Prince Albert's investiture, I met with POLO, my senior police asset, who reported that Prince Albert's buddy Gerard Brianti—Michel Pastor’s cousin—received a kickback from every football player contracted to play for ASM, Monaco’s team.  

This had come to his attention through a French investigation of a Corsican named Fabien Pivateau, who had come up against Brianti as a corrupt rival footballer’s agent—and who was connected to Corsican nationalists.


Corruption, compounded
I also received intelligence on Erminio Giraudi, a meatpacking mobster from Italy who had opened Le Beefbar in Fontvieille and cut Franck Biancheri a secret ten percent stake for speedy approval.  

Giraudi did not manage to get his application for Monegasque citizenship pushed through while Prince Rainier was on his deathbed, so now was pestering Albert for nationality. 



Giraudi
The chief prosecutor of Milan had been on Giraudi’s trail until blocked by Monaco’s (former) chief prosecutor Gaston Carrasco, who later (but of course) became Giraudi’s personal lawyer.  

Years later, the Italians had still not given up investigating Giraudi for money laundering and tax evasion.  Giraudi was said to have told the Italian consul to Monaco, “I don’t give a shit about you—I’m going to be Monegasque!”

Monaco's corruption was everywhere, encouraged, of course, by those in charge, who benefited from it better than anyone.


Later in the afternoon, I met with LIDDY at M-Base.  He brought his dossier on our Serbian target, but would release it only on the basis of retainer with payment, to which I agreed. 



At five o’clock sharp, I arrived on the seafront in Nice for a secret rendezvous with Agop Dagleian in a room I’d booked at Le Meridien Hotel.  

I brought Monaco Police Captain Yves Subraud with me to witness this meeting and help me evaluate Dagleian and his story.  

We waited in room 819, where LIDDY knocked the door at six o’clock precisely, Dagleian beside him.

Dagleian told us he had been security chief to Adnan Houdrouge for five years, 1998-2003, that he personally witnessed Houdrouge hand Sylvia Biancheri an envelope stuffed with cash for a shopping spree in St. Tropez.  Dagleian was now persona non grata in Monaco, he said, and he believed Franck Biancheri had him chased out because he knew too much.

Two years earlier, Dagleian told us, Houdrouge had given three million euros to Franck Biancheri on the assumption that these funds would be delivered to Prince Albert —a bribe for permitting Houdrouge to invest in Monaco’s soccer team.  

I found it hard to believe that the Prince would request or receive a bribe, as I’d never noticed anything in his character that suggested greed for money or material possessions.  

If Dagleian’s account was correct, I suspected Biancheri told Houdrouge he needed to pay three million euros to the Prince but kept the money for himself.  

Whatever actually happened, from that time on, Dagleian heard Houdrouge tell various associates, “I have Prince Albert in my pocket” and “I have Prince Albert by the balls.”

Dagleian told us that Houdrouge was under investigation by the French for false invoicing of merchandise for trade with African countries and tax evasion.  

Moreover, said Dagleian, Houdrouge was using sports merchandise as a cover for illegal arms trafficking. He identified Ricco Dhan, a Greek-Lebanese-Egyptian, as the middleman/buffer in such deals.  

Dagleian further told us Houdrouge laundered cash from Africa through Italy and Nice (by train) for deposit in Monaco—“100,000 to 250,000 euros, twice a week.”

Dagleian told us that Houdrouge had paid Franck Biancheri’s air and hotel bills on a regular basis, including a vacation in Madagascar.

After Dagleian departed with LIDDY, Subraud and I discussed his credibility.  

There was a French bias, Subraud told me, to regard any Armenian as a crook.  But Dagleian passed muster for him.  His eye and body language—and depth of detail—suggested credibility to us both.  


The Prince and I were due to meet again for a round up of post-investiture intelligence, including my meeting with Dagleian.  

But Albert failed to appear at M-Base as scheduled.  

When we spoke by phone a few days later, he apologized and promised a three-hour lunch at Roc Agel on August 10th to catch up.  

I told the Prince I enjoyed his investiture speech, especially the part about ethics and a crackdown on money laundering.  He told me he meant it.

(I had my doubts.)

About to depart from London Heathrow to resume my vacation at the beach in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, I connected by phone with Ian M.  

Ian had briefed the French DST chief on my role as the Prince’s spymaster.  

“He’s very intrigued,” said Ian.  

It was, apparently, all new to him.  

In over three years of secret service to the Prince, we had managed to evade the DST chief’s attention.
  



LIPS, according to Ian, had never mentioned my name, or our service, to the DST.




Indeed, LIPS had depicted CIA’s relationship with the Prince as with HSH directly, in keeping with their institutional fantasy, I guess, that they had recruited the Prince.




Before returning to Europe, I stopped in Washington D.C. for a round of meetings, starting with Clair George at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown on July 30th. 


I tried, through our joint laughter, to explain SPLINTER’s three-box "plan." 

Clair sighed.  “It’s all about money,” he said.  “The mystique around your Prince is akin to a billion-dollar treasure hunt.”   


With regard to liaison partnerships and the Third Party Rule, the former spymaster shook his head and murmured, “In this business, there are no rules.”

Then a meeting with the gang from CIA headquarters, this time at the Tyson’s Corner Marriott, another dose of fluorescent tube lighting, gung-ho projects destined to be shot down by Their Man in Paris.  

They briefed me, as promised, on Russian organized crime and its relationship to President Putin’s regime.  

It was a good, thorough briefing, the substance of which I cannot write about because I signed a non-disclosure agreement stating that such intelligence was secret and releasable to Monaco for the Prince and my eyes only. 

Suffice to say, it helped me better understand the problems Monaco would encounter if it allowed corrupt Russians to conduct business within its borders. (They eventually would, and did encounter these problems, to this day.)

CIA (headquarters, not LIPS in Paris) reaffirmed its interest in collaborating with SIS to support trilateral objectives among other operations destined to die on the vine due to LIPS's sabotage or ineptitude or both.

Near the end, one of CIA’s managers asked, “How much money do you need?”



I replied, “I love questions like that,” then paused to collect my thoughts and responded thus:  

“The Prince wishes to support our intelligence service himself, and he is grateful that you have kindly provided some funding to finance the expense of investigations and operations that have objectives mutual to our own.  We do need additional funding for the operational security of M-Base, including a secure computer database, which currently is my brain and seven leather journals, and I intend to take this up with the Prince when I lunch with him next week for further guidance.”

While in Washington I also met with Tyler Drumheller and Bill Murray, both recently retired from CIA, now engaged in private-sector intelligence.  

They told me that while still at CIA they’d shown my dossier on MING to Mike Sulick, then Associate Director of Operations and “a great resource on Russia.”  

Sulick assessed that the Russians had indeed recruited MING.  

So where was the FBI on this, two-and-a-half years later?

Nowhere.

Tyler also felt that Russian organized crime should be our primary target in Monaco.


My “three-hour lunch” with the Prince on August 10th at Roc Agel turned into a fiasco and a huge disappointment.  

We had many important, sensitive matters to discuss, but the had Prince invited a young frolicking couple along:  

“Unavoidable,” he said. 



So what should have been a strategic session on the future of his reign was reduced to trivial chitchat.  

Even after our two-hour lunch by the pool shifted to the main house, the Prince found it difficult to excuse himself from his vacuous playmates. 

When I finally insisted we speak in private, he petulantly sat them in front of a television set and found us a room as somber as his mood for being pressed to talk business—the sole reason for my presence.

“Where do you stand with Jean-Luc Allavena?” I asked.

“Yeah, I want him as chef de cabinet,” the Prince replied.

This was good news—except that Allavena had, for a whole week, been on pins-and-needles expecting the Prince’s call, as promised, to resolve the finer details.  

Precious time had been lost—was still being lost—without a chef de cabinet—and it was the Prince, not Allavena, who was holding up the process.

I conveyed our intelligence from Agop Dagleian on Biancheri and Houdrouge. 

The Prince confirmed, as I suspected, he had not received three million euros from Adnan Houdrouge via Franck Biancheri.

Again, I urged the Prince to conduct a zero based review of all ministers, and choose his own.  

He was Sovereign, not his father’s ghost.  

I again pointed out that the status quo was not okay; he had said so himself.  The Prince needed to send a message to his government and his subjects, and to France, that he meant business.  

If he appointed new ministers and ordered them to crack down on money laundering, they would do this. 

But the pack of ministers still in position would not.  

I also suggested we make examples of three money launderers—after all, we had over a dozen culprits from which to choose.

And I made my case for additional funding.   

Our costs had risen:  M-Base, operational security, paid assets, travel expenses...  

Although we worked 24/7, my deputy and I paid ourselves a pittance, preferring to pour everything we could into growing the service.  We needed at least 25 percent more to operate, no extra for ourselves.  

The Prince demurred, said he’d think about it.

I pointed out that knowledge is power; that, as Sovereign, he needed the best intelligence money could buy to ensure that he could make the wisest decisions.  



With our spy-net now in place, assets and informants plus liaison relationships, built over three years on a shoestring, Albert now had a small albeit highly efficient intelligence service—one that was truly secret—at his disposal, 100 percent loyal to him without any conflicts of interest.



The Prince’s disinterest that day, in view of all we had accomplished, left me somewhat demoralized.  

I understood how Sir Francis Walsingham, the father of modern-day spying, must have felt when Queen Elizabeth I neglected to provide the funds he needed for the intelligence service he had created at her command. 

Walsingham ended up bankrupting himself in the belief that “knowledge is never too dear.”   






It was difficult for monarchs, perhaps leaders in general, to appreciate the cost of collecting and assessing intelligence, causing Walsingham to write, “Spy chiefs are never appreciated.”  

(Later, when I mentioned to one of the Prince’s close friends that my meeting with him was disappointing, he said that my presence had probably interrupted a sexual escapade.  

“It’s all about sex for him—last night it was Russian prostitutes at Michael Smurfit’s villa in Villefranche—twins, I think.”   

He added that the Prince was “taking August easy—unwinding from pressure of the last five months.”)

Which meant we were five months behind getting the Prince’s rule established.   

It seemed to many, including me, he was hiding out.  

Said his friend:  “He runs away from problems and avoids confrontation.  And thinks with his dick.”

I notified the Prince of my scheduled meeting two weeks hence with the DST chief in Paris, and again he approved my plan to create a liaison partnership if the French were amenable.

That night, the Prince told me, he would attend a party at Oscar Wyatt’s villa on Cap Ferrat.  

It did not matter that Wyatt (as I had pointed out earlier) was dirty, dirty, dirty:  He traded in embargoed oil, arms trafficking, money laundering…  as one intelligence officer in a friendly service told me, “You name it, Wyatt’s doing it.”


I then spoke with LIPS on the cryptographic hotline.  

Again, he shot down headquarters’ interest in working with SIS and, instead, proudly announced CIA would henceforth provide a worldwide intelligence brief for the Prince, which they would cryptographically fax to me.  

Apparently, the Prince’s new status as Sovereign cut muster for such service, though, I daresay, as these briefs piled up in M-Base the Prince rarely took any interest in reading them.  It kept our shredder busy, not much else.

Porter Goss had stated at dinner months earlier, the reporting in the New York Times was just as good, maybe better, and my reading of these briefs proved it true.


Stephane Valeri phoned me mid-evening, concerned that the Prince had made no announcements about anything, not least his appointment of a chef de cabinet. 

“The people are waiting,” he whined.  

I reassured him an announcement was imminent.


I was starting to feel like a yo-yo, hurtled by EasyJet across the English Channel and France, sometimes twice weekly. 

My first meeting upon arrival (late afternoon) was always with Monaco Police Captain Yves Subraud—soon, a ritual.  

Subraud provided me a police file (or fiche) I had requested on Oleg Kim, a wealthy Russian who lived in nearby Cap Martin.  

The Monaco connection:  Kim’s daughter, Olga Kim, was resident in Monaco; through her, Oleg laundered money through Monaco banks.

Next, I dispatched these names and vital statistics to other intelligence services for running traces.  This became our modus operandi.


When I called to trace Kim with CIA, through our hotline, LIPS got on to press for a meeting with the Prince. 


In keeping with our new policy, I advised him, “The Prince is busy and unavailable and asked that you convey everything through me.” 



So piss off, jerk.


Subraud possessed quite an agenda this day, the 22nd of August, starting with a painting that had allegedly been mishandled by Monaco’s Red Cross.  


Narmino
Perhaps mishandled was not the right word.  A
valuable painting had disappeared, presumed misappropriated by Philippe Narmino, Director-General of the Red Cross, and his friend, Gerard Brianti.  

Actually, it was alleged they had stolen it. 











Apparently, the woman who donated this painting happened upon it for sale at an art gallery in France.  

Suspicious, she sought the gallery’s owner, who supposedly told her, “Oh, no, madam—this painting belongs to Gerard Brianti.”  

Where did Brianti fit in with Monaco’s Red Cross? 

In a scam that had been going on for ten years, Brianti’s company, Ageprim, enjoyed an exclusive deal with Monaco’s Red Cross to conduct valuations of everything donated to it:  art, automobiles, boats and real estate.  

Brianti’s company invoiced the Monaco Red Cross an astonishing five percent of the value of every item assessed!  (Narmino signed the checks paid to Ageprim.) That is how Brianti would have access to the painting.


Brianti
This association—Narmino/Brianti—led Subraud into an explanation about a Monegasque faction of bisexuals, said to be more influential in Monaco than the Freemasons.   

Subraud identified three opposing factions within the Monegasque establishment:  

1) Freemasons, 2) Catholics, 3) Bisexuals & homosexuals.  

Membership sometimes overlapped. 




Next morning, LIPS wanted to get somewhere with me.  We met at CafĂ© Venezia on Monaco’s main port. 

“The DST are really looking forward to meeting you,” he lip-serviced.  “They invited me, too,” he lied, “but I declined,” adding, “The DST applauds what you’re doing.”   

He asked me to call him after my DST meeting.

(I didn't.)

Then LIPS got round to our relationship with the FSB’s SPLINTER, not knowing that I thought Sergey was a joke.  

“He shouldn’t be a liaison" LIPS whined. "He should be a contact.”

I chuckled and asked him to explain the difference. 

Other than logomachy, there wasn’t much. 

“Okay,” I said, paying lip-service to LIPS. “Let’s call him a contact.” 


That made LIPS very happy.  



He then tried to provide me with a tier system on how we, in Monaco, should conduct liaison, or contact, with the intelligence services of other countries.   

I listened patiently, mostly out of amusement.

Neither LIPS nor anyone else from CIA was going to dictate how we expanded our liaison partnerships.

And we were about to expand them exponentially.