Friday, October 30, 2020


On Retainer to Prince Albert of Monaco

May-June 2007

In early May, we had a quite alarming if not surprising report from a highly-trusted source coming out of Russia regarding the Prince’s aide-de-camp, who had become well known to the Russians through his relationship with General Pronichev:

Bruno Philipponnat reports Monaco’s national secrets and Palace activities monthly to the French.  There are no secrets for the French concerning Albert’s life and the Russians are equally well informed.

What the Prince hated most was to be taken for a fool—yet he allowed both the French and the Russians to take him for one.  

All my cautions from the day I commenced work in the Prince’s service had been thrown to the wind.

By mid-May, it seemed clear the Prince tolerated us merely as a token service, disinterested in our work and not doing anything about the shady people who continued to prosper and proliferate in his principality. 

This was not fine with me. 

We had been telling other intelligence services in earnest of the Prince’s seriousness about “putting morality, honesty and ethics at the forefront of my government and my cabinet” (Le Monde 2).

It all sounded good, but it wasn’t the truth

Truth was, the Prince was doing nothing about the pervasive money laundering and numerous shady dealings in his own backyard, including the corrupt activities of his appointed ministers.  

It was just too much of a burden for him.

And he finally reached the point where he didn’t want to even hear about it any more. 

I had not signed on to be the Prince’s PR spin-meister. 

That day, our service stopped creating new liaison partnerships.  

It was time to wait, and watch, in passive mode, see what happened next.

Somewhere in my Internet surfing, trying to find an explanation, I came upon The Five Dysfunctions of Leadership:

·      Absence of trust

·      Fear of conflict

·      Lack of commitment   

·      Avoidance of accountability

·      Inattention to results 

Sadly, I concluded Prince Albert suffered all five.  

His leadership style was, in a word, hedonistic.


As we approached our fifth anniversary in service to the Prince, I drafted a redefinition of our mission:

·      We respond to requests from the Sovereign for briefings (through liaison partners) and requirements (investigations and operations).

·      We maintain relationships with foreign intelligence services for the purpose of assisting the Sovereign with briefings, shared intelligence and joint investigations/operations; we also respond to requests of services with which we liaise, if they do not conflict with Monaco’s sovereign interests.

·      Columbus Group:  We grow our Micro-Europe intelligence club to enhance deep cooperation among microstates.


I wanted to discuss this redefinition with the Prince, to allay his fears about our intentions with regard to Monegasques in important posts, but he had become elusive.

So when I arrived in Monaco on June 13th, I came prepared to dissolve Monaco’s intelligence service—and move on with my life. 

JL met me at Nice Airport and recounted a meeting he’d had with the Prince a few days earlier.   

The Prince still had not provided JL a cover job with salary, as promised and poor JL was drowning in debt.

Incredibly, the Prince replied, “So you want me to help you [financially]?”

“No,” said JL, “I just want to be paid for the work I’ve been doing like you agreed.  What about a job in the tourism office as cover, which you suggested?”

“Oh, can’t do it,” the Prince replied. 

“But you can do anything you want!”  

“I wish,” said the Prince.  

He directed his cousin to (of all people) Palace rat Claude Palmero, whom he would see next morning.

JL came straight to see me at Hotel Columbus after his meeting with Palmero.


Palmero: Palace Rat
We sat in the chic lobby, me jet-lagged, JL devastated.  

White-faced, he explained:  Palmero, with contemptuous condescension, had said to him, “So you have money troubles and you expect the Prince to bail you out?”

“No,” said JL.  “I need to be paid for the work I’ve done.”

“What work?” Palmero demanded.

“My work with Eringer.”

“Eringer should pay you.  But regarding a job, Eringer’s cell is terminated. Nothing has changed since what I told him six months ago.  No more invoices will be paid.”

Palmero said he might be prepared to loan JL money, on the Prince’s behalf and help find him a job. 

“So what can you do?” sniffed Palmero. 

“I do intelligence with Eringer,” said JL. 

“I already told you,” Palmero huffed. “Eringer is dead.”


Next day, June 16th:  exactly five years after the Prince hired me to be his spymaster. 

I was in Hotel Columbus, ninth floor, awaiting an elevator to descend. 

The Prince phoned.  

“Sorry,” he said, “I’ve been very busy and I’m about to leave for Paris and Marchais.” 

I told the Prince I would depart for Malta next morning for a meeting of the Columbus Group. 

Honest to God, he said, “What’s that?” 

I reminded him of our association of intelligence services from the European microstates, pointing out that San Marino would attend for the first time.  

An excellent addition, I added, because it was in San Marino’s banks that corrupt Monegasque ministers hid their dirty money. 

The Prince did not know quite what to say, so he said nothing.       

“Shall I keep going?” I added. 

“Yes,” he replied.  “Keep going.”

“And bill you next quarter as usual?”

“Yes, proceed,” he replied.

“You know,” I said, “it was five years ago today that you asked me to do this job.  Happy anniversary.”

“Happy anniversary.”  

He sounded robotic.

Windy Proust
Downstairs, JL was chuckling.  

He’d just shared espresso with the minister of state’s chauffeur, Paul, who hated his job because he hated his boss—about whom he told this anecdote:  

Proust climbs into the car smelling of whisky and tobacco, his shirt collar mottled with dirt and grease, sits back in his seat.  

Then, with great effort, he hunches forward. 

“Paul, Paul,” says a grinning Proust, holding out his pinkie.  “Pull.”          

Paul says, “Yes, your Excellency.” 

Paul pulls Proust’s pinkie whereupon the minister of state releases a long, beefy fart and falls back into a giggling heap. 

And doesn’t even open the window.

That afternoon, the 16th, I had to meet Lips at Quai des Artistes.   

We sat in the open air.  

For the first time since we’d met three years earlier, the CIA's inept Paris station chief wore blue jeans, as I’d been suggesting for, well, three years. 

LIPS told me his ambassador (not Langley) had expressed concern about the Prince’s plan to vacation come summer with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.  

“He’s concerned that it could open Pandora’s box.”

I shrugged. “He's right. That box is already open." 

General Pronichev, Bruno Philipponnat, Gocha Arivadze and a dacha at Roc Agel the Russians were building from scratch, a gift (some might say a bribe) from President Putin for Albert's Winter Olympics Sochi vote.   

“You haven’t been paying attention,” I added.   

LIPS gulped—an OMG moment. 


This was not how LIPS wanted his tenure as Paris CIA chief, with responsibility for Monaco—and a secret relationship with the Prince—to end. 

“Doesn’t he want to keep doing what he asked you to do?”

“He thinks he should,” I replied.

 “Thinks he should?


“That’s an important distinction.”

“I’m glad you caught it.”

“What are you going to do about it?” asked LIPS.

“Whack away,” I said.  “These Russians are like weeds.  We need a giant weed whacker.  Under the circumstances,” I added, “I’d like to see somebody senior at your headquarters to redefine our relationship—next month, if possible.”

“That’s very doable,” said LIPS, for whom everything was always very doable—until you needed actually to do it.  “We have a new European division chief taking over shortly.” 

(The fourth in as many years, dissent and decline within the agency to blame.)

The good news, I said, our Micro-Europe association was progressing well.

“A great legacy,” said LIPS, remembering the enthusiasm Ambassador Stapleton expressed for this initiative.   

LIPS told me he was headed to “the seventh floor”—an executive job in senior management.

(If true, heaven help CIA.)

Before departing from what would be our final meeting, LIPS ran through, as always, his motivational list of concepts to keep our relationship structured.  

“Does that make sense?” he concluded with his catchphrase.

No, our relationship with you folks has been rather sense-less. But thanks for lunch.

At ten minutes to eight at the same table in Columbus where the Prince and I started Monaco's intelligence service five years ago to the day, I met with JLA—our first meeting since he’d been unjustifiably fired eight months before.


“The best period,” I told him, “was while you were chef de cabinet.  That was our golden age.”  I meant every word.  “The right changes were being made—we had momentum.” 

JLA seized on the word momentum.  

Indeed we did, he sadly concurred.

One of the incidents held against JLA was his so-called  “firing” of Christine Stahl as Palace Communications Director.   

Stahl had thrown numerous tantrums in JLA’s office, shouting her resignation on three occasions.  On the third, JLA insisted she truly go. 

“I didn’t do such things by my own authority,” JLA told me.

I knew he did not.  

The Prince would authorize JLA to take action on something and, if he were then criticized, Albert would assign blame on JLA for “exceeding his authority.”  

In this case, the Prince flip-flopped, rehired Stahl—and ever since she’d been running around Paris calling Albert “stupid” behind his back.

“The Prince fired me,” said JLA.  “He had every right to do that—it’s the kind of authority I wanted to instill in him.” 

The irony.

As for Thierry Lacoste, JLA had seen him for lunch in Paris one week earlier.  

“He has twenty faces,” said JLA.  “Never trust him.  Last week he said to me, ‘Too bad you left, Monaco is falling apart, Albert doesn’t have a grip, Albert doesn’t work’—can you believe?  Then Lacoste probably goes to Monaco and tells Albert I said something bad about him.”

What bothered JLA the most:  

The Prince never said thank you; he never showed any appreciation for all JLA accomplished, even while the Prince got hailed as a genius due to JLA’s valiant efforts.

Prince Albert II of Monaco is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

As such, Albert votes on where the Olympics shall be played. 

This is a highly competitive business.

In early July 2007, the IOC met to vote on which city should host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Albert voted for Sochi, in Russia.

Several months earlier, Russian laborers began building a three-bedroom dacha (traditional Russian house) on the grounds of Roc Agel, Prince Albert's private estate in the mountains behind Monaco.  

The dacha was a personal gift from the Russian state.

It is a violation of the IOC's Code of Ethics for an IOC Member to receive a gift from a country engaged in bidding to host the Olympic Games.

Albert never declared his gift to IOC's leadership.

He kept it secret.

Clearly, Russia's Vladimir PUTIN sweetened Albert's disposition toward Sochi with an expensive personal gift.

Others would call it a bribe.

Prince Albert finds new best buddy in Putin

Matthew Campbell, Sunday Times

Published: 21 September 2008


RUSSIAN officials sent a team of builders to Monaco to erect a three-bedroom "dacha" in Prince Albert's garden earlier this year as a sign of the growing friendship between Moscow and the tiny principality on the Riviera, according to sources close to the palace.

The simple wooden building has the function of a pool house at Albert's estate in the hills behind Monte Carlo and reflected growing bonds with Moscow that have helped to turn Monaco, a glamorous tax haven, into the favourite playground of Russians.

Albert's spokesman declined to comment but a former adviser saw the dacha as evidence of the warm friendship that has developed between the 50-year-old bachelor prince and Vladimir Putin, 55, the Russian prime minister. 

The two spent a week together last summer, fishing and hunting in Siberia, where the Russian leader was photographed posing without his shirt. Albert was given two freshwater seal pups from Lake Baikal.

They met again last month in St Petersburg, when Putin thanked Albert, a member of the International Olympic Committee, for supporting Russia's bid to host the winter Olympics in the Black Sea port of Sochi in 2014.