"THE INVESTIGATOR," SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS, DECEMBER 27th, 2008
His Minister of State, Jean-Paul Proust, corrected the Prince. It's not terminated, said Mr. Proust, breaching protocol (one must never suggest the Prince is wrong), but merely "suspended."
Which actually means Monaco is in a suspended state of confusion, brought about by conflicting factions battling over backhand commissions, even while the Prince speaks of cracking down on money laundering and corruption.
"We are not a place that tolerates illegal financial activities or money laundering in any form," Prince Albert announced while opening a Monaco embassy in London last year.
Yet the prince knows the identities of a number of money-launderers--including persons engaged in illicit arms dealing--who continue to thrive as residents in his Mediterranean tax haven.
"Ethics cannot be chopped and changed," Prince Albert added.
But one needs only examine the case of Monaco's former finance minister to understand that ethics in Monaco, under the Prince's rule, are easily chopped and changed.
On the streets of Monte Carlo, Finance Minister Franck Biancheri was known as "Mister Ten Percent" for his proclivity to accept secret partnerships in business enterprises--including a restaurant chain whose applications he swiftly rubber-stamped in exchange for a silent 10 percent stake.
In a clear conflict of interest, the finance minister tried to place his wife, Sylvia, on the board of a Monaco bank. He also demanded cash under the table to permit a money launderer to invest in ASM, Monaco's soccer team, and then arranged for the money launderer to acquire Monegasque nationality.
But most astonishing was how Biancheri bought and built his personal home: He orchestrated a scenario whereby the government donated land to a senior citizen association, which then sold the land cheaply to his friend, who then split the land with Biancheri for a pittance, after which building permission was quietly granted.
Mr. Finance Minister then dispatched construction laborers from Monaco's Forum Grimaldi (presided over by his wife), to get cracking. Plumbing, heating and air conditioning subcontractors installed their wares and sent invoices to Forum Grimaldi for payment.
A company called Sicobois tried to deliver 42 custom doors to the convention center--doors billed to the Forum. The goods receiver at Forum Grimaldi was baffled until the driver found a different delivery address: The Biancheri villa.
Was Biancheri arrested and prosecuted for corruption and fraud?
Franck Biancheri is now Monaco's foreign minister.
How does such a thing happen in a country whose royal head of state publicly declares, "Ethics are not divisible"?
Everyone has heard wacky conspiracy theories about Freemasonry. So bear in mind what follows is not far-fetched secret society paranoia, but factual information about how Freemasonry operates within France.
Freemason lodges maintain a formidable, covert influence within the French judicial and police structures. All three Freemason lodges in France have gained reputations in recent years for being "affairiste"--a French term meaning corrupt business practices, to include influence trafficking and false invoicing, particularly in companies controlled by the state. Freemasons in the judiciary hamper investigations through bureaucratic measures--"routine" inspections, internal investigations, and reassignments--designed to torpedo any serious attempt at reform.
The most prominent of France's three Freemason lodges is Paris-based Grande Loge Nationale Francaise (GLNF). One of GLNF's most senior Masons is Jean Paul-Proust, a former Paris police chief--and, since 2005, Monaco's Minister of State.
Proust and Biancheri enjoy a Masonic bond, with Proust having engineered Biancheri's initiation into the so-called "Club 100," a lodge spin-off.
When Prince Albert was confronted with evidence of Biancheri's widespread corruption, he took six months to accept the finance minister's "resignation"--and allowed Proust to immediately appoint him "special adviser to the minister of state" and chairman of economic development.
Proust then craftily steered Biancheri back into his cabinet.
Another GLNF Mason in Monaco is Philippe Narmino, Secretary-General of Monaco's Red Cross since 1988.
Narmino is alleged to have misappropriated a painting by Joan Miro valued at 1 million euros, donated to the Red Cross but never logged.
A senior judge, in addition to Red Cross honcho, Narmino habitually accepted gifts, including a yacht named Brave Captain, and he engaged in a scheme, with close friend Gerard Brianti, to profit from valuations conducted on high-ticket items contributed to the Red Cross.
By anyone's standards in a civilized country, complicity in such dealings and acceptance of expensive gifts by a judge constitutes gross impropriety and is wholly unethical.
Yet, fully aware of Narmino's disreputable doings, Prince Albert selected him to be Chief of Judicial Services--the highest-ranking justice position in Monaco--due to GLNF pressure tactics.
Another shady character in sunny Monaco is Jean-Paul Carteron.
Carteron left Paris in 1981 to work for "Papa Doc" Duvalier and wound up looking after the Haitian dictator's corrupt fortune. He carried on with "Baby Doc," facilitating real estate deals along the French Riviera.
The Duvalier dynasty was brutal and murderous--and the beginning of Carteron's own fortune. After bloodying his hands with both "Docs," Carteron--in 1989--created Crans Montana Forum in Switzerland and re-styled himself as "humanitarian." His forum provided respectability for brutal, corrupt regimes in Africa, from which Mr. Carteron personally profited.
The Swiss, by 1996, suspected Carteron of laundering money and requested he move his forum elsewhere. He took it to the Principality and re-named it Monaco World Summit, creating the erroneous perception among foreign governments that his private entity was a Monaco institution. Then, mixing with representatives of the world's smaller nations, Carteron became a broker. Not stocks and bonds. Carteron brokers honorary consulships to Monaco. His going rate is 50,000 euros.
Prince Albert knew about these unethical antics, but rather than point the door to Carteron, His Serene Highness designated him co- fundraiser for a pet project called "Peace Through Sport."
But the prize for Most Unethical Behavior goes to Thierry Lacoste, Prince Albert's Paris-based lawyer.
Lacoste works hard to manipulate the Prince's decision-making in Monaco while simultaneously representing Monaco-based clients whose presence in the Principality is diametrically opposed to the "new ethic" promised by the Prince.
Such clients include Samy Maroun, a Lebanese businessman connected to several scandalous oil deals, including the corrupted U.N. Oil-for-Food program.
Which brings us back to where we began: the $10 billion land reclamation project.
Lacoste reportedly urged his client, the Prince, to shut it down--get ready, folks, this is good--because the consortium with which he had secretly aligned himself was eliminated in favor of rival vendors.
"Monaco is in crisis," a Monegasque insider told The Investigator. "Fifteen years of growth was destroyed by this. People in Monaco are angry. So are the vendors, who wasted their time and money for two- and-a-half years. And what does the Prince do? Right after New Year's he goes to Antarctica for a month to look at penguins. He's not serious."
He is also not sincere.
Upon accepting the role of monarch, Prince Albert vowed to put "morality, honesty and ethics at the forefront of my government and cabinet."
Sadly, and shamefully, it was all a sham.