Sunday, September 27, 2020

95. ENTER LUXEMBOURG



On Retainer to Prince Albert of Monaco

May 2006


On May 10th, in the bar of Hotel Columbus I met with Frank Schneider, Luxembourg’s foreign intelligence chief.  

He described his service to me, and I at once grasped it as a model to which we, the Monaco Intelligence Service,  should aspire.  


Promising him dinner a few hours later, I had to dash off to collect Jeff Stinson from USA Today and drive us both to the Palace.

First: a superb interview with the chef de cabinet.  

JLA, focused and clear, humbly deferred to the Prince’s authority and leadership. 


He talked about “improving intelligence” and “expanding international contacts” and “pay-as-you-go taxation” rather than tax avoidance.  

Stinson was extremely impressed by JLA.

Second: up the narrow winding stairway to the Prince’s office.   

Pressure and stress had taken a toll on the Sovereign, his mood dark as he gave a stumbling, halting interview, deferring to me to prompt him on the many points we hoped to convey. 


And when Stinson wanted to take his photograph—for an article that would probably be the best PR since his investiture—the Prince turned testy and refused.

I rushed to rejoin Frank from Luxembourg at Le Beefbar in Fontvieille.

Frank had been working five years in intelligence, found it addictive, and could not imagine himself doing anything else.  

Frank thought the position I’d carved for myself in service to the Prince was amazing.  He was also enthusiastic about my idea to start a club of Micro-European intelligence services and vowed to get the ball rolling with his counterpart in Malta.  

The Luxembourg service, he said, had no contact with Liechtenstein, Andorra, and San Marino, and would very much welcome liaison with them.

As for expanding Monaco's liaison partnerships with the intelligence services of other countries, Frank kindly offered to open his Rolodex and arrange introductions to those  on my wish list, including the Balkans, not least because that seemed to be where prominent Monegasques most enjoyed hiding dirty money.

For future communication, we organized a data dump, a makeshift method used by Islamic terrorist cells for “chattering” at Internet cafes:  

I’d create a Yahoo email address under a generic name and provide Frank the password.  When I had something to convey to him that was too sensitive to talk about over the phone, I’d write a draft, but I would not send it as an email.  Instead, I’d notify him through other means that a message awaited him.  Frank would then use the password to enter the e-mail account and read the draft, without anything having been transmitted.

Late that evening, I took a call from JLA.  

He was extremely concerned that his interview with USA Today should not over-shadow that given by the Prince.  He wanted the reporter to know that the Prince was in command—something that might not have seemed obvious to Stinson.  

I assured him that Stinson’s focus was the Prince.

Next morning, my deputy and I took Frank on a cruise a sleek motorboat my deputy had recently purchased with his own money to host foreign visitors to Italy and back, with lunch at Plage Mala.  Frank loved every second, from the cold Chablis to the magnificent scenery to the poster girls in bikinis.

That afternoon I visited the Palace to see JLA and meet Paul Masseron, the new interior minister. 


Masseron

I briefed Masseron, a discreet gum chewer, on my mission.   I explained how we had been collecting and analyzing intelligence for four years, ready to take action against a number of targets, the dossiers of which I would provide him presently.  

Masseron appeared satisfied with the arrangement and gave me his mobile phone number and e-mail address for future contact.

After Masseron left, JLA and I spoke privately.  

I had traced the fax number on the Bosna Bank fax directly to Philippe Narmino’s office fax machine at Palais de Justice.  

JLA was astounded.

JLA told me that he was supposed to have attended the post-North Pole Putin dinner at the Kremlin with the Prince. But aide-de-camp Bruno Philipponnat eased JLA out of the trip by saying it would be a “one-on-one” meeting, which proved false.  

I speculate that Philipponnat did not want JLA around to witness his close contact with the Russians.

Our digging into Philipponnat’s “dossiers” left troubling questions about influence for sale:

·      Philipponnat tried to pose Robert Munsch as an “eye specialist doctor” at the new Institute for Medical Sports.

·      The new Yacht Club of Monaco:  From its inception, Philipponnat connected himself closely to the architect, Lord Foster, and organized special, secretive meetings in his office, without consultation with the yacht club’s general manager, Bernard d’Alessandri.

·      Special allocations during the Grand Prix:  Purporting to act “on behalf of the Prince,” Philipponnat decided who should be given extremely valuable berths in the port during the Grand Prix.

·      Nike:  “A very strange dark folder,” I was told by my asset.  “Everybody knows the very special link between Bruno and Cory T, of Red Bull.  It is certain Cory got to build and manage the new Nike store with some very strange authorization.”


Late that afternoon, I hosted Jeff Stinson on a boat ride/pub crawl through Villefranche and St-Jean Cap Ferrat for deep background on what we were trying to accomplish in Monaco.

And I learned from HUNT that shredders in the finance ministry were “red hot.”  

Paperwork from the years 2003-2004 was being shredded at a fast pace, he told me, “including orders of Prince Rainier that had not been acted upon.”


On the evening of May 18th (2006), I met the Prince’s second cousin and godson, JL—grandson of Prince Rainier’s sister, Princess Charlotte. 

An intense, if sensitive individual, JL held serious concerns about what was going on within the principality.  I outlined my mission, in general terms, and JL offered his cooperation.  

Clearly, he was in a position to tap into intelligence both in the corridors of power and on the street, and thus seemed a strong asset for our team.  

JL told me that Jean-Paul Carteron was trying to cultivate him into his network; of course, as a blood relative to Monaco’s royal family, Carteron would use JL as cachet to promote his own standing within the principality among foreign leaders of small nations he counted as friends and summit participants.

When I next saw LIDDY, he was brimming full of Bosna Bank revelation.  

LIDDY had learned that Narmino started to panic, moving money from different banks to Madrid, Spain.  This was most fascinating to hear because SIGER had just provided new information suggesting that the misappropriated Red Cross painting, a work by Joan Miro, the Spanish surrealist, did indeed exist, had indeed been stolen and squirreled away in a bank safe deposit box in Madrid.  

Narmino apparently had asked Biancheri to go see Proust and find out what the hell was going on i.e. why was he under such scrutiny?

 At ten to eight that evening, May 19th, an elderly woman ambushed the Prince upon his arrival in the lobby of my apartment building.  “I saw you on a boat four years ago—do you not remember?” she demanded.

He did not.   

I ushered him away from the intruder and into the elevator.  “New girlfriend?” I quipped. 

Safely inside M-Base, I said, “No martinis, wine tonight.”

“You can’t do that.”

“Okay, but I’m out of olives—it’ll have to be cocktail onions.”

Top priority item on our agenda:  The Bosna Bank fax that traced to Narmino’s office fax machine.  

“I’m assured there are more documents coming,” I said.  “Let’s be patient and see everything, investigate further, if need be, to validate what we’re given.”

I briefed the Prince on my meeting with the Luxembourg service and mentioned my upcoming meeting, in Brussels, with a senior representative of Bulgarian intelligence.  

He expressed delight with my progress.

I told the Prince that I would be in the USA for the month of June. 

“You can’t do that,” he said.  “I need you.” 

I reassured him that my deputy would be back and forth between London and Monaco, and would be available at all times.

Again, I raised the Monaco Institute for Peace and Reconciliation. 

Again, the Prince expressed passion for the idea, pointing out that his great-great-grandfather had not only tried to talk Kaiser Wilhelm out of starting World War I but was a founding member of the League of Nations.  

The best way to raise seed money from private sponsors, I said, was with a signed letter of endorsement from the Prince.  

He requested I draft such a letter for his signature.

Proust:  No resignation tendered, as hoped. 

Instead, Proust complained about “tension” with JLA.  

The Prince decided to let him remain “unless he screws up.”  

I daresay, Proust had already screwed up by ignoring the Prince’s directives, but, as always, Albert would travel the path of least resistance.

And the most resistance always comes from the bad guys.