Saturday, October 24, 2020

122. THE MULE


Andre Muhlberger



On Retainer to Prince Albert of Monaco

January 2007


Following the "termination" debacle, my next meeting with Prince Albert was on January 11th, 8:30 a.m. at the Palace.  

A servant escorted me to a breakfast nook in the Prince’s kitchen. 

When the Prince entered and took his seat opposite me, I asked, “So who’s trying to do me in now?”


“What do you mean?” the Prince replied, taken aback.  “No one.”

No one turned out to be Police Chief Andre Muhlberger, as alluded to by Albert in our phone conversation at Nice Airport a few weeks earlier.  

The Mule (his new nickname, henceforth) probably never liked the idea of a non-official outsider telling his intelligence unit what to do, but he put up with it while JLA was around.  

Now, with JLA gone and others trying to terminate my service, Muhlberger had obviously judged his timing right to put the boot in.  


So he had accused me of stealing SIGER’s reporting on Islamic activists and repackaging it as a product of our service.

“As I’ve already told you,” I said to Albert, sipping coffee, “SIGER produced a number of reports over a ten year period that no one at the Palace bothered to read, assuming the reports ever reached the Palace.  

"And, as I also told you, since the police had not taken it upon itself to conduct an assessment of such reporting, even after 9/11 and bombings in London and Madrid, and since we received intelligence from a liaison partner suggesting Monaco could be targeted by independent Islamic cells, we took it upon ourselves to translate the reporting into English, analyze it, mesh it with other intelligence we were receiving from several liaison partners and write it into one easy-to-read, up-to-date report that fully credited SIGER’s in-put.”

The Prince said, “Oh.”

“Have you read it?” I asked.

“Not yet.”

Of course not.

Perhaps he would while on the throne.

With reference to the Monaco Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, over which I’d strung along a number of busy, serious-minded individuals for over nine-months, the Prince had decided not to pursue this in deference to a pet project called Peace Through Sport.  

(One certainly did not conflict with the other, but I let it pass.)  

I suggested I try to get my microstate association to take it on as a group effort. 

The Prince said fine.

The Prince also wished to discuss money.  He wanted to scale our funding back to where we were before the raise two quarters earlier.  

I explained that we would need the higher figure for one more quarter, after which we would terminate the lease at M-Base.  

He agreed.  

He also agreed to meet Marco Mille of Luxembourg and we penciled this for the morning of February 7th.


Then back to M-Base for a meeting with... Muhlberger, who knew I’d just met with the Prince.  

Muhlberger was probably hoping that I had had been seriously reprimanded, if not curtailed or outright terminated.  

So he was devastated when I appeared relaxed and confident.  

We sat down.  

I told him I’d enjoyed an excellent dialog with the Prince; that I understood Muhlberger harbored some turf concerns and that I would be delighted to deal with such concerns directly with him. 

Somewhat embarrassed, Muhlberger shrugged, shook his head, then launched into our investigation of Philippe Narmino, which he called his “Number One priority.”  

He said he had put Gottlieb and Subraud on it full time to either find evidence—or terminate the investigation and move on.  

Yet Muhlberger did not even ask for my dossier on Narmino, which contained the evidence.  

I offered it to him, suggesting that he trace the fax number on the Bosna Bank letterhead and determine through Monaco Telecom records if Narmino’s office fax machine connected to Bosna Bank.  

We could never do this ourselves because SIGER did not have access to Monaco phone records.  Yet, surely, as police chief he could nail it down this evidence.  

Muhlberger said okay.  He then said he would travel “anywhere in the world” to get to the bottom of this. 

“Excellent,” I said.  “You should travel to Sarajevo to meet the Bosnian intelligence chief.  I will arrange an introduction.” 

Muhlberger said fine, he would be free to travel in mid-February. 

I escorted Muhlberger to the foyer and saw him into the elevator.  

“Thank you for your support and friendship,” I said, looking him straight in the eye.  

The police chief looked away, then down.  He knew I knew.

Surrounded by vipers, it was a good thing I knew a thing or two about snake charming.  

Because the next face I saw in M-Base belonged to LIPS.  


We were still in crisis mode, fighting for our survival, and he wanted to recite his playbook, the basis of our relations, or “The S’s,” as he called them:  Support, security, structure and separation—though “the S’s” could have stood for shit-squared.  



We had long graduated from Intelligence 101. 

Now it was time for hardball.  


LIPS told me that CIA’s new director, Michael Hayden, had finally been briefed on CIA’s relationship with us, fully supported it and sent his greetings.  


Really? I felt like saying.  To hell with greetings—and lip service—how about a bazooka?

 

That week, following our renewal by the Prince, the Monaco Intelligence Service monitored an extraordinary summit in the village of San Casciano, near Florence in Italy.

 

Villa Mangiacane had been the Machiavelli family seat, to which the father of political science, Niccolo, by been banished by the 

autocratic Medicis and where, for 14 years, Machiavelli wrote his discources, including an enduring master thesis entitled The Prince.


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Under the ownership of Glynn Cohen (a Monaco resident from Zimbabwe) and his secret co-owner Gocha Arivadze (a way for Arivadze to launder money), Villa Mangiacane had become a decadent getaway for Arivadze and friends of the Prince, whose social orbit he penetrated despite our warnings about him.  

Decorated in erotica, this getaway is where Arivadze and the guys would bring models and prostitutes for boozy weekend parties lubricated by house wine from the so-named Arivadze Cellar.  

During this particular week, however, Arivadze played host to a dozen Russians from the energy sector and senior members of Russian intelligence.  

What’s more, Arivadze hosted them in the Prince’s name, telling those assembled that the brand new 2007 Rolls Royce parked outside with Monaco plates T245 belonged to the Prince, on loan to him, specifically for this meeting.

Arivadze, we believed, was Moscow’s lightning rod in Monaco, using his influence with the Prince via aide-de-camp Bruno Philipponnat and close friends Robert Munsch and Robert McNamara—to pave the road for massive Russian money laundering into real estate in the principality.  

He and his fellow Russians used prostitutes and the prospects of lucrative moneymaking deals to lure the Prince’s friends to Moscow, compromise them and turn them into members or fellow travelers of their team. 

We traced ownership of the Rolls Royce not to the Prince, but to a friend of his, Francesco Bongiovanni.  

We believed Arivadze secretly owned the car—as he did the villa—but put property in the names of others to shield his ownership. 

Arivadze had also received an award at the Kremlin from President Putin, an occasion attended by Philipponnat, Munsch and McNamara.

We speculate Arivadze was honored by Putin for his access to (and influence with) the Prince, mostly through Philipponnat, who exclusively handled Russian business on behalf of the Palace through General Vladimir Pronichev, Commander of the Federal Border Guards, who had overseen Russia’s cooperation on the North Pole expedition. 

And also for choreographing the Russian “gift” of a dacha, built from scratch by Russian laborers on the Prince’s country estate, Roc Agel, commencing soon after the Prince’s return from meeting Putin in Moscow—a project that cemented Philipponnat’s relationship with General Pronichev and the Russians.

The in-house accountant from ASM, Monaco’s football team was brought to M-Base because he did not know where else to turn. 

 

Brianti

He provided me with documents that detailed financial irregularities and suspicious payments, including payments to Swiss accounts, which was illegal.  It was also illegal for Gerard Brianti to commingle funds from ASM with Ageprim, his own company, yet these documents confirmed this is what Brianti had done and continued to do.  

This accountant told me he’d already made the Prince aware of the illegality of these transactions.  




He could not understand why the Prince, with such documentary evidence, had taken no action.


The Prince had tasked me with investigating Sergey Pugachev, the Nice-based Russian who’d bought a nightclub for his Monaco-resident sons, and who wanted SBM to manage his new hotel in Moscow.

  

The Pug

According to one of his sons, Pugachev was laundering money for President Putin along the Cote d’Azur and perhaps was doing so under duress, because Pugachev apparently harbored concerns about how his relationship with Putin would evolve into the future.  

So as a pre-condition to signing the SBM deal, after SBM’s board agreed to proceed, Pugachev demanded a private meeting with the Prince.  

I advised the Prince to snub Pugachev and pull the plug on this deal and he did so.  

It would be cheesy, I pointed out, that the very first time SBM ventured outside of Monaco to manage a hotel, it did so in Russia, whose president had just assassinated a UK citizen and, in the process, had subjected parts of London to radiation poisoning.  

And it was just as well, since the reason Pugachev wanted to see the Prince was to request Monegasque nationality as part of the deal, for which he was also willing to pay millions of euros in support of projects in Monaco.

Patric Maugein, who was privy to Jacques Chirac’s corrupt entanglements with Saddam Hussein, died in Paris, to which he had returned when things turned ugly for him in Kazakhstan.  

Maugein was only 50 years old.  


Official cause of death:  cancer.  

The timing of Maugein’s death was certainly convenient for Chirac, who would soon step down as president and no longer enjoy immunity from prosecution for corruption.


Paris was my next stop, to introduce JL to Pierre de Bousquet. 


Pierre de Bousquet

The DST chief eyed JL up and down before asking me with a fixed stare, “How are your CIA friends?”  

During my previous two visits, CIA was not mentioned.  

Somebody—probably Muhlberger, a one-time DST officer—had been winding him up.  

Or the recent influx of foreign intelligence officers from half-a-dozen countries visiting me in Monaco had him on edge. 





“Fine,” I replied, abiding the third party rule, which precluded me from saying any more than that.  “Just like any other relationship.  We now have many more liaison relationships.”

His next question: “How is the book writing?”

“I’m too busy to write books,” I replied.

De Bousquet seemed surprised we were so buoyant.  Almost as if Muhlberger had assured him he would see us gone.  

Thierry Matta, his chief of staff, piped up: “I have a question.  What will Andre Muhlberger do and what will you do?”  

It was a silly question from someone who understands the intelligence business:  Muhlberger would do law enforcement and we would do intelligence.  

Yes, we’d been asked in the past by the Prince to undertake investigations that belonged within the domain of law enforcement, I explained, but that was because the police force was a leaky ship and distrusted by the Prince.  

Now, with Muhlberger in command, we had relinquished criminal investigations to him.

“Are you going to retire?” De Bousquet asked me while fixing his eyes JL.  

(It was almost as if de Bousquet was suggesting I retire and write books.)

“I created this entity,” I replied.  “I want to assure it is firmly established and in good hands before I go.” 

“Will you ever institutionalize?” asked Matta. 

“For now the Prince prefers we keep a low profile.  We became too visible, by necessity, and made some enemies.”

“Then you are doing your job,” said Matta.  

“Indeed.  Now we plan to take a step back and become less visible again.”

After we left, both our cell phones seemed to become open microphones and we removed their batteries for the duration of our time in the French capital.

  

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That evening JL and I dined with Ian M as Tastevin on the Isle St-Louis, where Paris was born.





  

His take on things:  the French were nervous about us and wanted to shut down the Narmino investigation.  Through Narmino, the French could control Monaco’s judicial system because of what they had on him.

Clair George, the former spymaster, phoned at dinner’s end, when I restarted my cell phone: 

“Where in heaven’s name are you?" he asked. "Just checking to see if you’re still alive.”

“I’m fine this evening—check with me tomorrow?”