Friday, September 4, 2020


On Retainer to Prince Albert of Monaco

November-December 2005

My French services agent LIDDY was full of interesting intelligence at our next briefing.  

It largely concerned Vladimir Putin and his real estate investments along the Cote d’Azur with money siphoned from the state’s energy sector.  

I pointed out to LIDDY we were not to put our noses into French territory, but concern ourselves solely with Monaco, lest the French get their own noses out of joint.  

(Who could tell for certain LIDDY, a Frenchman, was not trying to entrap me into a conflict with the French for not minding my own business?)  

“If there’s an overlap with Monaco, geographically, or its national interests, it’s fair game,” I said.  “Otherwise, leave it alone.”

LIDDY immediately provided a Monaco dimension:  

A Monaco-based company called Petro Trade was allegedly engaged in laundering Russian money into Cote d’Azur real estate.  It linked to a known Russian organized crime figure, Sergei Ponomarenko. 

Good enough, I said.  Do it.

JLA phoned me on his way from Paris to Monaco, about to assume his duties at the Palace. He sounded rather perplexed.  

The Prince, under pressure from Raymond Biancheri, had signed the document granting Raymond’s son, Franck, plenipotentiary status, which, again, Raymond trumpeted to the media.  

The Biancheris had obviously timed this to occur just before JLA’s arrival despite agreement that nothing would be signed and sealed without first consulting the new chef de cabinet.

A curious fellow entered our arena through EJ, the Latvian interior minister.  

His name:  Sergio, a Russian-born Israeli who billed himself as intelligence chief to exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.  

Sergio told us he handled Berezovsky family security along with intelligence collection.  Berezovsky owned a villa in nearby Antibes, but no longer traveled to continental Europe for fear of detainment and possible extradition to Russia.  

Sergio claimed to have his own spy-net and wished to share intelligence with us on overlapping (Russian) interests.  

One such interest was Mikhail Chernoy who, he said, had purchased a house in Toronto for $11 million only to discover the Canadians had banned him from entering their country.  

Sergio claimed to have been a case officer with Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic security service. 

We invited Sergio to our M-Base party, in honor of the Prince's enthronement, to observe him in action.  

He tried to be first to arrive, appearing precisely at six o’clock.  

But he got beat by old pros Tyler Drumheller and Bill Murray, formerly of CIA, who arrived 15 minutes early, plunked themselves at the bar near the center of everything and sat there until everyone else was gone hours later. 

All three were practicing an old intelligence trick for such gatherings:  be first to arrive, last to leave, and place oneself in a prime position in the middle of everything to vacuum up as much dialog as possible.  

Sergio set about introducing himself to everyone in sight.

Robert Munsch crashed the party, on the prowl for young females to procure for the Prince, but also for himself, in competition with Francesco Bangiovanni, who brought young women from Paris for the occasion.

Tamara Rotolo, the woman with whom the Prince sired Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, continued to harbor doubts about whether I truly represented the Prince—or if I was a media trickster.  

So I sent her an email detailing the state of her negotiations with Thierry Lacoste:


TL/AG want to create a trust of one million dollars for past expenses.  Apparently, you want some of this money for yourself.  A stickler, but compromise is possible.  They will then give J a monthly amount for five years, followed by an additional five years if she attends university.  Your lawyers are asking $250k for legal expenses.  Much too much.  A major stickler that could scuttle things.  And there is another issue regarding J’s legal consent to sign a deal while still a minor.  (Trust me now?)

TL will be in LA in early December.  Your lawyers are about to receive e-mail from him concerning this.  (Let them hear it from him, not you.)

I do remember the thing you want most:  for father and daughter to have a relationship.  I’m working on it.

It blew her away.  Not only did she finally believe me, she began cutting plans to visit Monaco (and me) during the Christmas holidays.

Meantime, SPLINTER breezed into town.  Ian M and I met him in Hotel de Paris.  

SPLINTER told us Umar Jabrailov had been on his Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Nice the day before.  

“He was very nervous,” said SPLINTER.  

I put this down to SPLINTER’s bluster and possible prevarication, but the French DST later confirmed for me that Jabrailov indeed had flown into Nice from Moscow on that flight.  

SPLINTER added that Jabrailov owned real estate in Monaco; that he’d initially registered such property into his own name but had since disguised ownership rather than declare it to Russian fiscal authorities.  

He said Jabrailov used Monaco banks to launder revenues from drug trafficking.   

“Don’t make him mad at Monaco,” SPLINTER cautioned.  “He will send Albanian drug addicts and cause five or six explosions.  Create small problems for them [your targets],” SPLINTER added, “but show them respect.”

SPLINTER had delved into Jean-Paul Carteron and determined "he reports to the French,” adding that Carteron has been “a French intelligence agent for twenty years.”

It would certainly have made sense for the French DGSE to recruit Carteron while he was handing the affairs of Papa Doc, then Baby Doc Duvalier.  The DGSE would have encouraged Carteron, while at the United Nations, to ingratiate himself with Central European and Balkan leaders.  

Furthermore, it would be in DGSE’s interest to sponsor Carteron’s summits secretly, first in Switzerland, later in Monaco—a way of making contact with and trying to recruit individuals they cherrypicked for Carteron to invite.  

We could therefore assume that whatever DGSE, and therefore the French government, knew and believed about Monaco, much of it came from Carteron.

SPLINTER went on to say that Dan Fischer/Francu had been a CIA agent for ten years before returning to Romania to help reform the country, and that CIA was behind Fischer/Francu’s presence in Monaco “because of his connections to Arabs.” 

I take pause to point out that intelligence collection is only the first phase of what an intelligence service must do.  

The next phase: the ongoing evaluation of sources, the questioning of their motives and assessment of their reporting.  

And after that, one must analyze what has been collected.  

Sometimes, like life itself, raw intelligence simply does not make sense.  But that doesn’t mean one disregards the nonsensical because it doesn’t fit into a paradigm or theory or slot.  

This isn’t a novel or a movie, where all the pieces must fit and ultimately provide resolution with all loose ends neatly tied.  

A source like SPLINTER may be right about one thing and wrong about another, either because he has been misled by others or because he’s trying to mislead—or he’s trying to inject his own opinion disguised as fact.  

Collection, assessment and analysis are an ongoing process with the objective to cross-source, try to nail down the facts and, ultimately, provide informed judgments and recommendations to those who make decisions.

SPLINTER also told us that Prince Rainier supported Italian money laundering.  

Based on my knowledge, I would suppose this to be true, as part of Rainier’s strategy, when he first took power, to transform his principality from a Mediterranean backwater into a thriving financial center and tax haven.   

The money laundering from Italy stopped after Prince Rainier’s death, SPLINTER added.  

I would also concur with this, as the money launderers in Italy paused to assess what Prince Albert’s reign would mean for them, amid talk of a “new ethic.”

I left SPLINTER and Ian so they could chat privately on matters that did not concern me.  

Afterwards, Ian reappeared at M-Base.  “SPLINTER has the jitters,” he said.  “He asked me, does Prince Albert really want to know this stuff?” 

I countered that SPLINTER, on certain topics, was either lying or crazy. 

Ian saw it differently:  “What’s frightening is that the Russians may really believe this stuff.”

Ian left, replaced at M-Base by Jay J, CIA Director Goss’s senior adviser, and the Prince, to whom Jay J delivered a handwritten letter from Goss pledging his continued assistance and support. 

Lip service from the top?  We would see.

During a lull in their discussion, I cracked an anecdote I’d just collected about Putin conducting an affair with a Russian female gymnast that he’d met at the Athens Olympics.  Kremlin gardeners watched her come and go. 

“How do you know this stuff?” the Prince asked. 

“You kidding?” I replied.  “I know more things by accident than most people know on purpose.”

The Prince expressed surprise when I told him my next stop that evening would be drinks with President Valeri at his home.  

“He tells me everything,” I said.  “Anything you want to know?”

“Ask him,” said the Prince, “if he has the Conseil Nationale under control.”

I was surprised by the Prince’s lack of sophistication by posing such a generalized question.

I arrived at Valeri’s home on Boulevard d’Italie at 7:30, as appointed.  His Russian girlfriend Tatiana welcomed me inside; their Yorkshire terrier Lillian wanted to play go fetch.

Valeri was as incensed about Franck Biancheri’s plenipotentiary status as JLA.  He believed the Prince had been “tricked” into signing the order, as if Franck’s father Raymond had placed it at the bottom of a stack of documents that required the Prince’s signature.     

Valeri told me he kept a list of Monegasque Freemasons in his safe and offered to provide me a copy.  He claimed to have a friend inside the Masonic lodge who was reporting their activities to him.

On November 21st JLA and I had a working lunch of takeout pizza at M-Base.  He had just fired three persons at the Palace, including Raymond Biancheri.

The knives came out of their sheaths that night.

Top of the agenda:  Philippe Narmino.  

Narmino expected to be appointed chief of judicial services.  

I advised against it.  

How could the Prince put a crook in charge of justice?  

My advice:  Take a stand, send the right signal to everyone—do not make this appointment.

Second:  the restructuring of SIGER.  I ran through my notes of what needed to be done and promised a written report, as requested by the Prince.  

JLA concurred with my plan.

Third:  Franck Biancheri and his status as plenipotentiary.  “The Prince does not make mistakes,” said JLA, meaning we could not undo what had been done because the Prince cannot be seen to have made a mistake.  We’d have to live with it and learn from it.  

But it sealed Biancheri’s fate.  

Pending my final written report, it was already clear Biancheri would be removed as finance minister—it was just a question of when.  

Minister of State Jean-Paul Proust had already been told to expect this; he was surprised, but had held his tongue. 

I lunched on November 22nd in London with the European division chief of SIS at Diverso, an Italian restaurant on Piccadilly.  

He explained that the Financial Services Authority’s interest in Monaco had deepened, centering on a ring of British tax exiles in the principality suspected of insider dealing.  

Their question:  “Does the Prince really mean it [a crackdown on financial crime]?”  Or, as the SIS chap put it, “Does he have the balls?”

I thought the Prince had the balls, and I told him so.

“Aren’t you frightened of Russians who think their interests are threatened?” asked the SIS chap.

“No.”  I pointed to the Swiss as an example.  

When things grew uncomfortable for Russians in Switzerland in the late 1990s, the Russians moved on.  

There are other places in the world where they could launder ill-gotten gains.  They had moved on, and they would move on from Monaco, too.

Later that afternoon, I regrouped with my deputy at Caffe Caldesi.  The crunch had come to harness all we had on Biancheri for a final report.

Meantime, we received reports from an extremely reliable source that Biancheri was feeling “completely destroyed.”  

It would have been the perfect time to recruit him.  

Biancheri realized the Prince knew the truth about his corrupt activities, and he seemed ripe for rehabilitation—anything that could save him in the Prince’s eyes.  

Biancheri knew a lot.  We could have used his knowledge.  

But only the Prince could decide whether Biancheri should be brought to M-Base and turned around to cooperate with us.  

My own view?  If we could not arrest and prosecute him, we might as well benefit from what he knew.  

With Biancheri blowing the whistle, we could have taken down the whole gang, not least because he had almost broken at this point from Michel Pastor and Gerard Brianti, the latter I regarded as Thief # 1.

At 5:15 on December 6th, the Prince and JLA arrived at M-Base.  

I had two written reports ready for them to read.  

The first dealt with Franck Biancheri, a four-page, single-spaced document that they read in front of me.

They had, of course, already heard much it of it orally, during the course of several briefings.  But nothing compared to seeing it fully structured in black and white.

When he finished reading, the Prince looked at me, then JLA, and said quietly, “We should make Biancheri ambassador to Uganda.”

Unfortunately, the Prince declined the chance to cultivate Biancheri and “turn” him, as he was concerned about my exposure through such tactics.  

I still think of this as a missed opportunity.

Next:  my written report on how to revamp SIGER.

The Prince and JLA nodded to each other once they finished reading.

The Prince’s next stop, along with JLA:  a six o’clock meeting with Jean-Paul Proust, specifically to discuss the minister of state’s desire to create his own intelligence service.

Before departing, the Prince urged me to proceed quickly with a final, written report on Philippe Narmino.  

“The French,” he said, were pressing him to appoint Narmino chief of judicial services.

He also tasked me with background checks on two new names:

David Iacobachvili:  The Russians had proposed this individual to be their Consul to Monaco.

Igor Yurgens:  Supposedly, Monaco’s Consul to
Moscow, though neither the Prince nor JLA were certain of this.

At 9:10 pm, the Prince phoned me, having just finished his meeting with Proust.  He and JLA had shot down Proust’s plan to create an intelligence service under Alain Malric.  

“He needed resuscitation,” the Prince told me excitedly, enjoying the thrill of taking charge.  “He looked as if he was having a coronary.”   

When the Prince returned to M-Base 20 minutes later, I stood outside the elevator awaiting him with a celebratory martini in hand.

Inside, sitting at the bar, the Prince replayed it for me:  

Proust claimed to have consulted French Interior Minister Sarkozy and Prime Minister Villepin on his plan and received their blessing.  

When told by the Prince to expand SIGER instead, Proust said, of course we can do that, but we need an "international department."  

His idea:  bring in three French intelligence officers to handle liaison.  

I shook my head and reiterated the hazards of permitting another country to co-opt the Prince’s intelligence service.

Then I put the Prince to work signing a dozen first-day-of-issue envelopes with Monaco postage stamps bearing his likeness—Christmas gifts to our network of assets, informants and those who helped with logistical support.

Of deepening concern were the antics of Bruno Phillipponnat.  

Red Bull had put Philipponnat on a healthy retainer for his influence with the Prince.  The deputy head of Red Bull even flew down to Monaco for a meeting with Philipponnat on a major Red Bull project.  

It now seemed clear that Red Bull had paid money to Philipponnat for getting them into a deal with a member of the Pastor family.  

Worse still, it looked to others privy to such underhanded dealings that the Prince benefited financially from such deals; Philipponnat’s corrupt dealings gave the Prince a bad name.  

Albert did not express surprise, as if he already knew this to be true.

The Prince phoned me at midnight the following evening.  “Let me guess, “I said.  “You want a martini?”  

In fact, he wanted to drop by M-Base the next afternoon for further discussion.

The next day started at 7:30 with a visit from JLA.  

I provided him a cryptographic cell phone for future communication.  We gave one to the Prince, too, but he neglected to learn how to operate it—and, in any case, neglected to carry it with him.  He could hardly be blamed for this, as he already carried two cell phones and once calculated he received 50 calls per hour.

I possessed information from a reliable source that Thierry Lascoste had revamped his concept of creating a “kitchen cabinet,” whose true aim would be to wield influence from behind-the-scenes by those (Paris Clique clowns Lacoste, Salztman) who maintained conflicts of interest.  

“We don’t need a kitchen cabinet,” said a bemused JLA.  “We’ve got a real one now.  I’ll tell the Prince that I’ll leave if a kitchen cabinet is created.” 

“May they at least form a bathroom cabinet?” I joked.

Lacoste had just told JLA’s new cabinet communications director about his meetings in Los Angeles with Tamara Rotolo’s lawyers, then instructed her not to tell JLA, which was not only insensitive, but plain stupid.  

It validated other stories doing the rounds about Lacoste’s indiscretion and incompetence.  

Lacoste had tried to launch a “think-tank conference” in Monaco and sent the Palace an invoice of 150,000 euros to foot the cost.  JLA intended to speak to Lacoste later in the day—and to void the invoice and quash his plan for a “think-tank.”

As for Bruno Philipponnat:  the Prince had apparently ordered his aide-de-camp to turn over to JLA all “special project” dossiers from which he allegedly profited.  The Slovenia trip—a Phillipponnat project—was back on the books for June.  

“Of all the places we could be going,” posed JLA, “why Slovenia?”  Indeed, the answer lay with Philipponnat.

And then the most important topic of all:  Philippe Narmino.  

We were still collecting intelligence “by the hour,” I told JLA.  We wanted as much as we could get before committing our results to a written report.   

Finally, JLA’s gift policy:  a case of champagne arrived for him at the Palace the day before from a Monegasque banker.  He shared it among the Palace staff and let it be known, as an example to others, that all Palace staff will share any gifts directed to him.  

So by now, Biancheri, Lacoste, and Philipponnat, among others, were sorry it was JLA, and not Biancheri, who had wound up as the Prince’s chef de cabinet.

The un-sheathed knives were being sharpened.

The pressure to appoint Philippe Narmino chief of judicial services was not coming from “the French,” as the Prince thought, but from GLNF, the Freemason lodge, according to POLO, a senior Mason (and Monaco police bigwig) in our service.  

Narmino was a GLNF Freemason.  

In 1999, a French magistrate named Davust was seconded to Monaco to direct the judicial service.  

Davust had been transferred to Paris in 2003 to take charge of judicial personnel.  Ever since, Davust, a brother GLNF Mason, had been pushing hard for Narmino to be placed in his old Monaco job.

The Prince arrived mid-afternoon, with JLA at his heels.  

By this time, it almost felt as if Monaco was being run from M-Base.  

In the past four days, within its walls, we had agreed to oust the corrupt finance minister, JLA and I were trying hard to prevent a senior judge from getting the top job at justice, we had reorganized—on paper—the police intelligence unit, staved off the minister of state from creating his own intelligence service, put an errant aide-de-camp in his place—and relegated a would-have-been kitchen cabinet to the bathroom.

Now, with the three of us again assembled in M-Base (cramped around a tiny kitchen table because of electrical works going on in the living room), I made an impassioned plea for the Prince to hold off appointing Narmino chief of judicial services.  

The Prince’s concern:  If not Narmino, who else?  

JLA had the answer:  Request from France an interim magistrate to fill the position for two years while we further assessed the situation.  If Narmino came out clean, he could still get the job, JLA reasoned, but if the Prince gave Narmino the job now, it would be very difficult to remove him later.  

That got my vote, with this caveat:  ensure the French don’t send a Freemason.

Much earlier in my tenure, I offered the Prince this advice:  If in doubt, don’t.  

Now I had an addendum:  if someone—anyone—presses you for an immediate decision, it’s no.  Only if they’re prepared to wait for a considered answer might it be yes.

I ascended up the Rock, to the chambers of the Conseil Nationale, for a sit-down with Stephane Valeri in his office.  Proust had been in before me to bitch about JLA.  

“He wants to be the Number Two,” Proust had blubbered to Valeri.  “I am Number Two.  I make decisions, not JLA.”

In fact, Proust was mistaken.  Monaco is an absolute monarchy, and its constitution, which JLA read thoroughly while preparing for his job, clearly stated that the Palace, not the government, rules the principality; the government exists to execute the wishes of the Palace.  

Unfortunately, during the last five years of Prince Rainier’s reign the government had been chipping away at this power and had begun, unconstitutionally, taking it unto itself.  

It was JLA’s job to bring power back to the Palace, where it rightfully belonged.

“JLA is treating me like a kid,” Valeri quoted Proust as having said.  “If he continues, I will leave.”

As I later said to the Prince, there is only one response to anyone threatening to leave:  May I hand you your coat?  

Valeri was generally impressed by JLA’s first few weeks on the job.  

“The Cabinet used to be a cluster of old men of no consequence,” he told me.  “JLA has shaped it into a formidable power.”  

It also put Valeri on edge; power was something he coveted for himself.

Proust had enjoyed seven months without an effective chef de cabinet to shield the Prince from the government.  It was the Prince’s own fault, for delaying and procrastinating and negotiating and wasting precious time to firmly establish his rule.  

Proust had gotten used to life without JLA, dealing directly with a Sovereign who was spread thin, easily distracted, focused mostly on his social life, and easy to manipulate.  

With JLA it was another story.  Now Proust was up against a formidable figure whose agenda was simple:  to make the Prince appreciate his own power and to assist him in the execution of such power with objectivity, focus, intelligence, and the high ethical stance the Prince had already promised to his subjects and the world.  

That was why JLA took the job.  

And that was also why I, three-and-a-half years earlier, had signed on.

Proust’s perception of the situation was that JLA was trying to make decisions in the Prince’s name.  He was not.  

The reality was this:  The Prince finally had a shield so that Proust, and others, could not talk him out of what he wanted.

Another man with another knife.

Valeri dipped into his safe, as promised, and provided me with his list of Monegasque Freemasons.  His spy had attended the last Masonic meeting, held near Valbonne, and scribbled a list of Monegasques in attendance.  

These included Franck Nicholas, a former member of the Prince’s bobsled team now groundskeeper at the football stadium.

JLA telephoned me late that evening after speaking with the Prince.  He told me the Prince was shocked that Thierry Lacoste and his Paris Clique would try to form a kitchen cabinet.  I actually didn’t see anything shocking about it; I fully expected them to try this on. 

As for Proust, JLA was already aware of the minister of state’s disposition toward him.  “At Tuesday’s meeting he acted like a child,” said JLA.

The problem was this:  Every weekend JLA would fly home to his family in Paris.  And every weekend the knives would come out and cut away at all he had accomplished during the week.  

On this very evening, the Prince had dined with Proust, and he, again, tried to shove a wedge between the Prince and his new chef de cabinet.

December 10th, 2005:  

Franck Biancheri introduced himself to me following my brief meeting with JLA.  “The French police want to visit your apartment and see your computers,” he said.  “Come with us.”  

When we got to my apartment the French were already there, a half-dozen uniformed officers rummaging through everything.  

Someone said, “They don’t want you to return.”  

My Rolex Prince, the vintage wristwatch I’d purchased when the Prince first retained me, slipped from my wrist to the marble floor and shattered… 

I awakened from this dream in London and scribbled it into my leather journal, followed by this notation:  

I am not comfortable policing Monegasques. My brief was external intelligence, on foreigners with designs on Monaco. Collecting dirt on Monaco government officials makes me think of J. Edgar Hoover.