Saturday, October 10, 2020

108. ROMANIANS & MORE


 



On Retainer to Prince Albert of Monaco

October 2006


When I returned to Monaco on October 12th nothing had yet been done about reorganizing SIGER.  

The Prince must have known that he always had the power to make things happen, fast, simply by picking up the phone and demanding it be done.  

But instead, he permitted petty people to play politics over everything and impede his stated wishes.  

Much later, when Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president of France, he immediately took control and demonstrated leadership, yet as an elected president of a republic he actually possessed less power than an absolute monarch.  

When Sarkozy decided that France’s two internal security services, the DST and the RG, should merge into one agency, both institutions resisted with multiple reasons why this was not possible.  

Sarkozy did not waffle and allow his plans to be stalled by bureaucrats.  He said, I don’t care, that’s what I want, do it, NOW.  And it was done.  And everyone knew not to mess with Sarkozy thereafter.

Even after our last meeting at M-Base, where I’d provided the latest documentation on Narmino and the Prince resolved to take action and remove Narmino from his job as chief of Monaco’s judicial system, he had done nothing. 


Safra's Monaco penthouse (post fire)

And now we had word that Narmino, understanding we were on his trail, was trying to start his own intelligence service with the deputy interior minister, a favored police officer, Negre of SIGER, and a man named Gamberini, who had been retired from Monaco’s police force for refusing to allow private security guards to unlock the bathroom door behind which banker Edmund Safra asphyxiated to death from smoke inhalation in December 1999.   

Gamberini had just been rehired (by Narmino) to run the judiciary police. 

Meantime, Minister of State Proust had been back in the Prince’s office to take another bash at me, bolstered by his finance minister Gilles Tonelli.  

According to JLA, who’d heard about it from Masseron, Proust had “cast negativity” on my mission and questioned the wisdom of my contact with “international organizations.”  

The Prince had apparently replied, “I hear you.”

I tried to reach the Prince but could find only Madame Viale.  “How’s everything going?” I asked.

“I’m trying,” she said.

Discerning exasperation in her voice, I knew precisely what she meant.

 

On October 13th, I met with LIDDY.  Following up on our last meeting, during which he reluctantly named Thierry Lacoste as the individual trying to dig dirt on JLA, I asked LIDDY for more.  Again, he was hesitant, but he finally came out with it:  “A constituted power is attacking JLA to destabilize him.” 

What power? I asked. 

“Very strong, very high up,” said LIDDY.  “A real power.” 

Under further questioning, LIDDY insinuated that is was coming from Freemasons in Paris.  He alluded to a “senior Monegasque close to the Prince who travels regularly between Monaco and Paris” and “a position will be taken next week” and “they are awaiting his arrival from Paris to issue instructions.”  

LIDDY was vague and fragmented, because that’s all he knew, but those were the verbatim notes I scribbled into my journal.  

LIDDY’s information was extremely important based upon what would soon transpire.  LIDDY was also terribly uncomfortable.  He believed we were playing with fire because he was not sure whose side the Prince was on—mindful that we operated in the Prince’s service, not JLA’s.

“Is the Prince supporting JLA 100 percent?” LIDDY posed rhetorically.  He had his doubts.

With reference to Sotrama, LIDDY reported French intelligence services had been frightened off due to the Putin connection and political sensitivities at a time when France was striving to negotiate a long-term energy deal with Gazprom.


That evening, JL and I met with Dusko M, chief of Montenegro’s National Security Agency and, over dinner at Le Beefbar, sealed a liaison partnership. 




Frank Schneider of Luxembourg, who was in Monaco for meetings with me, joined us for dessert—an opportunity for him to meet Dusko himself for the first time.  

After all the introductions Luxembourg had provided for us, it delighted me to return the favor.  

We drank Sancerre and 1973 Armagnac—and laughed way past midnight.

 

One week later, I met with Dominique R, liaison chief of the Swiss Federal Office of Police, to open informal contact with Swiss intelligence. 


Dominique started his career as a journalist, like myself, then worked ten years for Carla Ponti, chief prosecutor at The Hague Tribunal.  

He had recently been invited to Jean-Paul Carteron’s imminent summit in Monaco, but declined—and made it clear to me that he did not think much of Carteron or his forum.  

(The Swiss would have known, of course, having allowed Carteron to operate in Crans-Montana before growing weary of him and booting his forum from their country.)  

Dominique had Googled me and come up with my 1978-79 infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan, and my novel Parallel Truths, a spy story based in Monaco written seven years before I commenced service to the Prince.  



(After Frank of Luxembourg obtained a copy of Parallel Truths and read it cover to cover, he told me he’d found it “prophetic,” and henceforth used stratagems in my novels for proposing intelligence operations.)

Amazon.com: Parallel Truths (9781929175017): Eringer, Robert: Books




Next day, October 20th, the morning began with a seven o’clock rendezvous in M-Base with JLA.  

I brought him up to speed on Narmino.  

As before, JLA favored confronting him and resolving the matter conclusively.  

That was JLA’s management style:  make a decision, execute it, move on—not belabor it for almost a year.  Bad news does not improve with age.

I briefed JLA on the Monaco Institute for Peace and Reconciliation and showed him the letter I’d drafted for the Prince to sign.  He grasped it at lightning speed and voiced his approval.

The Palace bean-counter Claude Palmero, meantime, almost suffered a coronary over the increased invoice from me that the Prince had approved.  

JLA’s assurance of its necessity did not ease Palmero’s pain, especially as Lacoste—with whom Palmero was close—continued to splutter dark noises about me.

JLA departed for his office, replaced in M-Base five minutes later by interior minister Paul Masseron and Police Chief Muhlberger.   

I passed my dossier on Yurgens to Masseron and astounded the police chief with my international liaison schedule:  we had opened doors with Montenegro and Switzerland the previous week and would presently attempt the same with Romania and Poland.

Muhlberger provided a fascinating tidbit on Andorra that helped explain their duplicitous behavior since my visit in July.  

(Not only had they caused a furor among SICCFIN and Proust, but Jordi Pons Lluelles ignored Luxembourg’s invitation to our kick-off meeting, without so much as a no thanks.) 

Andorra was not interested in cleaning up their money-laundering problem, said Muhlberger, because, for them, it was not a problem. 

According to Muhlberger, the sister of Andorra’s interior minister was connected to a man named Durand, reputed to be a big-time, wide-scale Andorra-based money launderer.  

Andorra was simply not interested in an association that might cramp the style of a money-spinner from which higher circles had been profiting for decades. 

The two men left, replaced in M-Base fifteen minutes later by Silvio, the operations chief of Romania’s foreign intelligence service and two associates.  

I bounced the name Dan Fischer/Francu off them.  

Immediate recognition:  “A bad guy.”  

They promised data on Fischer/Francu, and a new liaison partnership was born. 

An hour later the Prince phoned and said, “I’ll be down in six minutes.”  

I descended to the lobby to greet him, leaving the Romanians with JL, who had become my de facto deputy. 

The Prince arrived disoriented and bothered, as if the pressure, the decisions (non-decisions, mounting up) were gnawing away at him.  

In the elevator going up, my tie—seriously frayed (by design)—distracted him.


“It gets better,” I said, unbuttoning my navy blazer to reveal a skull and bones at its lower end.  “It’s my old school tie,” I joked.  As in, self-taught (and proud of it).  

It also reflected Monaco’s pirate history.  

“By the way,” I added as we reached the door, “it’s Romanians, not Bulgarians, you’ll be meeting.”

“What?”

“I left a message on your cell.  Did you not get it?”`

No, he said, he had not gotten beyond “Don’t forget our meeting” before hitting the end button.

The Romanians, like everyone, were charmed by the Prince’s presence, even though he was distracted, trance-like, falling asleep in his chair, a touch of narcolepsy.  

As we descended after the meeting, the Prince cited problems with JLA:  “family pressures” and “he cuts off cabinet members in mid-sentence.” 


Odd thing about it, the Prince sounded like a programmed robot, as if others had planted these phrases in his brain.  

I thanked the Prince for appearing, pointing out that it made my job easier when he validated my mission personally by meeting with senior officials from foreign intelligence services. 

The Prince invited me to join him for lunch the following day at the Palace. 

“Not the white-gloved guys,” I protested, as much put off by their formality as the probability that they would eavesdrop and report our conversation to others for cash. 

“No,” the Prince replied, “the nightclub bar. They leave us alone.”

“I’ll be there.”

Meantime, the two Jean-Pauls—Carteron and Proust—had  been exchanging barbs, the minister of state vowing the current summit would be Carteron’s last, and Carteron referring to Proust as a “toxic waste dump.” 

Needless to say, watching these ugly specimens whack away at one another made the pressures of my job more bearable.


JL toured the Romanians around Monaco all afternoon while I tended to the usual murder and mayhem. 

Silvio tried to chat him up.  “I’m not sure about Robert,” he had said to JL. 

“What aren’t you sure about?”  

Silvio explained that when he made a courtesy call to Pierre de Bousquet before embarking on this visit, the DST chief seemed tepid, supposedly saying, “I don’t know—he’s American.”

Maybe I really did drive the French nuts.  They couldn’t help but notice an escalation of liaison partnerships and a constant flux of representatives from foreign intelligence services trekking through border control at Nice Airport for onward travel to Monaco. 

During the past three months, we’d hosted the Luxembourgers, Bulgarians, Slovenians, Montenegrans, Liechtensteiners, and Swiss.

My rapid expansion of such relationships may have unnerved the French.  

And a burgeoning association of Micro-Europe intelligence services may have further unsettled them.  

When Austria’s intelligence chief, Gert P, consulted the DST about meeting me, he discovered they were “not enthusiastic.”


I treated our Romanian guests to an excellent dinner at Le Beefbar.  

Theirs was a service, they told me, of “DUs—divorce and ulcers.”  

Over fine Bordeaux and rare beef, Silvio told me that his service had conducted a profile study of rogue spies—Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen and Edward Lee Howard of the USA, and Richard Tomlinson of the UK—and deduced that such a personality derived from a highly disciplined upbringing that featured harsh, autocratic fathers—often the result of growing up an army brat in military families.  

This personality, they deduced, could not fit in, could not be a team player, suffered from an inferiority complex yet believed himself smarter than everyone else.  

Not only was this a formula for spotting and routing out potential rogue spies within a service, said Silvio, it also could be used aggressively as a guide for identifying potential spies for recruitment in rival intelligence services.

Silvio subscribed to the same work ethic as Nicolai Mladenov from Bulgaria: 

“Everyone who turns up for work each day should be happy and proud—or find another job” (DUs notwithstanding.)  

His point:  it is a privilege to be invited into intelligence work.  

Silvio added that only one of every 250 recruits made it through their psychological testing.

Silvio had been a mining geologist before entering a career in espionage.  While undercover he had told his mother, wife and children mother nothing of his work, mindful of this intelligence adage:  Tell one, seven will hear about it.  

Journalists in Romania had since “outed” him with accusations that he is a liar and worse. 

“So what you’re telling me,” I said, “is that you lied to your mother for years—and now she’s reading that you’re a liar?”

Only in the intelligence business…

We laughed a lot that evening.