Editor’s note: Columnist Robert Eringer formerly led the Monaco Intelligence Service, which he established.
Part of the reason we dismantled the Monaco Intelligence Service — created for Prince Albert II — at the end of 2007 was because of the prince’s burgeoning relationship with Russia’s brutal tyrant, Vladimir Putin.
Earlier that year we’d learned Albert had accepted a rather large gift from the Russian president: a whole house.
Actually, it was a dacha (the traditional Russian second home) that a crew of Russian laborers constructed from scratch on the grounds of Roc Agel, the royal family’s private farm high up in the French Alps, a 30-minute drive from the pint-sized principality Albert purports to rule.
Mr. Putin’s extravagant “gift” had its roots in an April 2006 meeting between the two heads of state following Albert’s expedition to the North Pole, which the Border Guard Service of Russia under General Vladimir Pronichev helped organize by assisting with logistics and supplying an intermediary launch zone.
Perhaps recognizing the strategic importance of Monaco (confidential banking, shell companies, safe-haven real estate, favorable tax laws, superyacht birthing) to wealthy Russian oligarchs with whom he was (and still is) financially connected, Mr. Putin, on Albert’s return from the North Pole, threw the prince a state dinner at the Kremlin.
It was there that the Russian president made his offer of a dacha to Albert.
The prince readily accepted. And the three-bedroom house was custom built during early-to-mid 2007 (and probably filled to the rafters with eavesdropping devices).
Our intelligence service was, of course, aghast by this shadowy undertaking, which went undisclosed by the prince to his subjects, the Monegasques; undisclosed to anyone outside his inner circle.
Because, in addition to getting into bed with a dictatorial bully and murderer by accepting such a gift, His Serene Highness, who was (and still is) a long-standing member of the International Olympic Committee, had egregiously violated that committee’s Code of Ethics governing conflicts of interest.
The IOC Code of Ethics clearly states: “The Olympic parties or their representatives, shall not, directly or indirectly, solicit, accept or offer any form of remuneration or commission, nor any concealed benefit or service of any nature, connected with the organization of the Olympic Games.”
In other words, it is forbidden for IOC members to accept gifts from countries competing for Olympic venues. It is mandatory that any such gifts be declared. And there was no declaration of any kind for such an expensive gift from Mr. Putin to Prince Albert.
To make matters worse, in July 2007, at an IOC meeting in Guatemala City, Prince Albert voted for Sochi in Russia as the IOC’s choice as venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
It made no sense to us as we endeavored, at the prince’s direction, to cleanse the principality from rampant corruption. As the wealthy ruler of a glamorous principality, the prince did not need to take a bribe. Indeed, by doing so, he set the absolute wrong example to those around him. He could have afforded his own dacha (or pool house, which the structure became) if he’d wanted one.
Prince Albert accepted the dacha, we believe, purely to please and appease President Putin.
The following month, in August 2007, Mr. Putin invited Albert to Russia for a fishing vacation, a reward of sorts for his vote, again in violation of IOC ethics. It was during this Siberian hiatus, which Hello magazine actually called “a thank you for Albert’s Olympic support,” that this pair of autocrats, during a 30-mile cruise along the Yenisei River, cemented their relationship, thereby signifying Monaco’s new status as Mr. Putin’s pet principality. (It was during this trip that Mr. Putin, a despot destined to become a war criminal, removed his shirt for photographers to primp and pose himself as if he were Tarzan.)
Remember, this was only nine months after former FSB officer Vladimir Litvinenko was assassinated in the United Kingdom on Mr. Putin’s orders and, as a careless consequence, left parts of London contaminated with radioactive polonium-210.
Thereafter, during the summer of ‘07, the Russian oligarchs began their financial invasion of the principality — and soon Russians became so omnipresent on the streets of Monte Carlo that popular restaurants began to feature their offerings in the Russian language.
And soon after that, writes investment advisor and Putin opponent Bill Browder in his upcoming book “Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder and surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath,”“Putin’s enemies (were) checking into Monaco’s hotels, presenting their passports, and finding themselves arrested within minutes” because “Prince Albert was notoriously chummy with Vladimir Putin.”
In fact, a handful of Russians had already led an advanced charge into Monaco (as part of an earlier wave that splashed onto Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez along the French Riviera in the late 1990s after the Swiss government cracked down on their presence in Switzerland), earning themselves a place on the radar screen of our service.
— Umar Dzhabrailov, a Chechen who is widely alleged to have been behind the murder of U.S. citizen Paul Tatum, his ill-fated partner at the Radisson-Slavyanskaya Hotel in Moscow, after the two fell out with one another.
Mr. Dzhabrailov had actually been declared undesirable and bounced from the principality in 2002 but was able to return after his election to Russia’s Duma, which entitled him to a Russian diplomatic passport, according him free passage.
— Alexey Fedorichev, a fertilizer titan whom Albert precluded from investing in ASM, Monaco’s football team, after we investigated Mr. Fedorichev at the prince’s request and recommended he be kept at arm’s length. According to Monaco’s own police file on Mr. Fedorichev, Swiss and German police contacted their counterparts in Monaco to report their suspicion that he was engaged in money laundering and trafficking in stolen passports.
This followed Italian police reporting to Monaco police their suspicion that Mr. Fedorichev was associated with Russian organized crime and that he was engaged in weapons and drugs trafficking. Here’s the kicker: Mr. Fedorichev has since been permitted by Albert to purchase 46.4% of the team and is now not only its major shareholder but, as of January this year, its new president.
— Chalva “Chig” Tchigirinski, with whom Albert’s own aide de camp orchestrated an introduction to the prince and who eventually moved on to upscale Greenwich, Conn., where he was accused in court of brutally beating his ex-wife.
The CIA, with which we enjoyed a liaison-plus relationship, told us: “Our information indicates Tchigirinski may have been involved in smuggling activities and has links to Russian organized crime.”
— Sergei Pugachev, once known as “the Kremlin’s banker,” an early collaborator of Mr. Putin who went rogue and made off with a billion dollars from Mezhoprombank, the Moscow financial institution he founded in 2002. At a time when Mr. Pugachev was still closely connected to Mr. Putin, Albert chose this oligarch to be his guest of honor at Monaco’s July 2010 Red Cross Ball.
— Gregori “Gocha” Arivadze, a Georgian national who ingratiated himself with Albert’s aide de camp and the prince’s close personal friends to carve himself a role as conduit between the prince and the Kremlin. Mr. Arivadze created an erotic “Eyes Wide Shut” retreat near Florence, Italy, for decadent getaways comprised of young female models and older Monaco men. And Albert’s closest friend, Mike Powers, revealed to us that “Gocha” once booked a whole brothel in Moscow for the prince and his friends to celebrate his birthday; the antics that resulted were likely delivered directly to Mr. Putin.
— Sergey Vasiliev, founder of Horizon Oil Terminal, which opened an entity called Sotrama in Monaco specifically to launder millions of dollars, monthly, into real estate. It is believed in intelligence circles that Mr. Putin is a silent partner and the ultimate profiteer of this St. Petersburg, Russia-based company.
— Vladimir Bryntsalov, a Russian pharmaceutical tycoon suspected of counterfeiting medications. Bryntsalov’s Monaco police file clearly states: “MAFIA RUSSE, CRIME ORGANISE RUSSE.”
Indeed. Our service, over time, was provided with countless Monaco police files that were filled with notations linking foreign residents of the principality to organized crime and money laundering.
Yet Monaco took no action against such persons and made no attempt to enforce the principality’s anti-money laundering statutes even while its ministers strove to get Monaco removed from the OECD’s blacklist of corrupt countries.
We hope the U.S. Justice Department will assess those identified above for their proximity (past and present) to Mr. Putin along with the origins of their fortunes to determine eligibility for sanctions — and push Monaco to seize their assets.
RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE FORECAST
Simply put, the hapless Albert had knowingly bought into Mr. Putin’s playbook.
We say “knowingly” because Albert knew, as early as September 2000, the intentions of Russian Intelligence toward his glamorous principality.
How did Albert know?
Because we told him.
It came in the form of an investigation and intelligence finding Prince Albert had commissioned and which I hand-delivered to him on Sept. 5 at The Mark Hotel in New York City, to which he had traveled to attend the U.N. General Assembly’s Millennium Summit.
“In March 2000,” the finding began, “the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) produced a report which described the Principality of Monaco as exceptionally fertile ground for the activities of both the Russian intelligence services and Russian criminal groups. Their report concluded with the prediction that Monaco would soon emerge as a key Russian and intelligence center in Western Europe … and is quickly becoming a primary destination for Russian money and finance.”
And that is exactly, under Albert’s princely stewardship, what transpired, despite the prince having been forewarned.
In fact, our sources later reported: “The Russian Intelligence Service regards the Principality of Monaco as one of its most important centers in Europe. The SVR uses Monaco to sell weapons and run clandestine intelligence and financial operations that span the globe. The SVR has been so successful in using Monaco they now refer to it as their ‘safe haven.’”
Once Albert’s true alliances became clear (Russian money, greed, corruption), we had no choice but to cut ties with Albert and Monaco — and terminate our service.
And ever since, Monaco has suffered a series of scandals and embarrassments, including the forced resignation-in-disgrace of Justice Minister Philippe Narmino for obstruction of justice and taking bribes from Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, whom Albert had allowed to purchase ASM, Monaco’s football team.
One thing that has become crystal clear over time is that the Monaco Intelligence Service was, most of the time, on target, whether trying to block noxious Russian influence or advising Albert not to appoint as minister of justice the deeply corrupt Mr. Narmino (a former senior judge and director-general of the Monaco Red Cross).
Albert, on the odd occasion when he was willing to make a decision, was wrong about just about everything, preferring to travel down the path of least resistance (with his corrupt friends, courtiers and ministers), always more interested in his next date — and social life in general — than standing up to lead, despite promising his subjects — at his investiture in July 2005 — that he would introduce “a new ethic” to the principality.
This, of course, proved to be a sham.
LES DOSSIERS DU ROCHER
The consequences have now set in. Prince Albert’s legacy is in shambles as a website run from Iceland — dossiersdurocher.substack.com — exposes the corruption of the prince’s top courtiers, including his personal lawyer, accountant and chief of staff. (Iceland is considered the world’s top protector of internet freedom; it does not cave to complaints/demands for website deletion.)
Writes French journalist Helene Constanty in a journal called Mediapart: “A data leak is panicking the Monaco microcosm. Since October, Les Dossiers du Rocher has leaked documents that shed light on an informal ‘club’ made up of four courtiers of Prince Albert II of Monaco. Thierry Lacoste, the prince’s lawyer, Laurent Anselmi, his current chief of staff, Claude Palmero, the administrator of the property of the prince and the crown and Didier Linotte, the president of the Supreme Court of Monaco.”
Those behind Les Dossiers du Rocher are anonymous; efforts by police investigators in Monaco and Paris to uncover their identities have, reportedly, proven fruitless. According to Europe-Cities.com, “The website is well camouflaged behind a series of smokescreens.”
SUBSTANCE, NOT SIZZLE
This website’s specialty has been to publish not mere allegations but highly revealing actual emails between top Monaco officials, who incriminate themselves in their corrupt endeavors, including, states one media report, “enriching themselves handsomely through real estate deals.”
The communications they publish reflect a network of corruption our intelligence service uncovered and reported to Albert at the time — and which went ignored by the prince. Thus, this is a vindication of sorts for the meticulous work we did in the prince’s service.
As CIA legend Clair George taught us: “The proof is not in the pudding, it’s in the eating.”
The pudding served up by Les Dossiers du Rocher is not only delectable but filling.
To the French newspaper Le Monde, Prince Albert whinged that the ghostly group behind Dossiers seeks to undermine his rule and, in a strange twist of ironic transference, he actually suggested that those behind the website were perpetuating corruption.
We’re not sure if this is genuine befuddlement or Orwellian newspeak.
What we do know, through ample first-hand experience, is that Monaco’s Prince Albert is capable of both, simultaneously.
And we also know this for certain: With Albert’s invitation, 15 years ago, for war criminal Vladimir Putin to board his listing ship and co-opt Monaco for Russian oligarchs, we bailed at precisely the right moment.
Robert Eringer is a longtime Montecito author with vast experience in investigative journalism. He welcomes questions or comments at email@example.com.