Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A ROYAL APRIL FOOL







THIS COLUMN WAS SCHEDULED TO APPEAR IN THE SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS ON APRIL FOOL'S DAY, 2009, BUT ERINGER PULLED IT AFTER HIS COLUMN ON SANTA BARBARA POLICE CHIEF CAM SANCHEZ WAS CENSORED


With April Fool’s Day looming, let us examine a recent fooling of royal proportions.

The mark?  

Prince Albert II of Monaco.

The ruse? 

A woman fooled him into believing she was the daughter of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Kathryn Aikterini, who is actually Greek, not Russian, and who speaks not a word of Russian, possessed all the credentials necessary for suckering the Monegasque Monarch, who turned 51 earlier this month: blonde hair, blue eyes, and 24 years young.

She weaseled her way into a princely meeting at the Royal Palace and convinced him to patronize, as honorary chairman, a local branch of an environmental charity—Green Cross International—that she claimed to represent.

Apparently, no one at the Palace checked her credentials—not even the Prince, beyond her physical attributes.

Only much later, after Aikterini’s admission to a psychiatric hospital for depression, was her true identity discovered.

At the time—around last April Fool’s Day—the (UK) Daily Mail reported that “police in Monaco believe Aikterini was the front person for the mafia who wanted to get a toehold into the Royal Family and the elite of Monaco for criminal purposes.”

Which suggests that Monaco’s constabulary doesn’t need to be fooled by anyone; it is content fooling itself, while robberies and burglaries continue to proliferate under police chief Andre Muhlberger.

Russian intelligence services and the Russian Mafia—often one in the same these days—are much too clever to use a psychologically troubled woman to gain the Prince’s confidence.

Moreover, the Russians have no need for a “toehold” because they already have at least one whole foot, probably a whole leg, in the door—if generally misunderstood by the Prince and Chief Muhlberger, either by design or ignorance.

The New Russian presence in Monaco began with Prince Albert’s trek to the Russian side of the North Pole, when Russia agreed to assist his party’s luxury expedition with logistical support and a landing base, Camp Arctichesky. 

This evolved into a state dinner at the Kremlin hosted by Vladimir Putin to climax the excursion—and a burgeoning relationship between the Prince’s senior aide-de-camp and General Vladimir Pronichev, Commander of the Federal Border Guards.

Shortly after the Prince and his gang returned home, the Russians offered to construct a dacha (second home) from scratch on the grounds of Roc Agel, Prince Albert’s private estate in the French Alps behind Monaco.

Their offer was accepted—and a team of Russian builders soon arrived to bang the split-level cottage into place, with nary a word in Monaco’s news media.

The Prince did not seem to realize that taking a personal gift of such high value was an act of corruption. 

Nor did he seem to be aware, or care, that his new dacha would undoubtedly be bugged to the hilt with concealed microphones. (Old habits die hard with the KGB’s successor services.)

The senior aide-de-camp, whose alleged under-the-table commissions until then had been confined to local activities, presumably hit pay dirt with Russians, who are intent on laundering money through Monaco banks and real estate, and gaining residency as a safe haven from dirty deeds and prosecution by the Russian judicial system.

For no sooner had the Prince returned to his Principality from the North Pole and the Kremlin, his aide-de-camp choreographed him to board a yacht berthed in Monaco’s port for introduction to Chalva “Chig” Tchirinsky, a Georgian oligarch of dubious character associated with one of the Red Mafia’s biggest names, Simeon Mogilevich

Chig wanted to dabble in Monaco real estate.

The Prince’s aide-de-camp had much earlier welcomed Gocha Arivadze, a Georgian from Moscow, into his close circle of the Prince’s personal friends, which he co-opted as his own, including two Americans, Michael McNamara and Robert Munsch.

Thus Arivadze, ex-operator of “ARSI” gas stations in Russia, successfully penetrated the Prince’s social orbit—perhaps with some “generosity” toward the senior aide-de-camp (who coordinates Prince Albert’s schedule) for access, and perhaps on behalf of Russian intelligence. 

Indeed, on the evening of January 12th, 2007 Mr. Arivadze hosted a dinner meeting of Russian intelligence and senior energy executives at the old Machiavelli estate (Villa Mangiacane) in San Casciano, near Florence, Italy. 

He purported to represent Prince Albert and claimed the Prince placed in his possession a brand-new Rolls-Royce with Monaco tags (T245) parked outside.

Little wonder Arivadze received a medal from President Putin in the Kremlin—a presentation witnessed by the Prince’s aide-de-camp and buddies McNamara and Munsch, who were hanging off the Prince’s coattails to hatch their own business deals in Moscow.

All this, while Monaco’s derelict police, under Muhlberger, fretted about a possible “toehold” through a deranged woman.

As early as 2000, the Russian SVR determined that glamorous Monaco was strategically important to them as a base for running covert intelligence and financial operations that span the globe.

“The SVR has been studying ways and means to influence and control Prince Albert,” states an intelligence report in our possession. “The SVR will not attempt to recruit Prince Albert in the classic sense of that word, but it does intend to use its considerable resources to establish what it envisages as a ‘special, intimate’ relationship with him.”

To this end, the SVR prepared a psychological profile of Prince Albert, who had not yet ascended the throne. (He did so after his father, Prince Rainier, died in April 2005.)

“He is a fragile personality suffering from multiple inferiority complexes and is quite vulnerable,” states the profile, a copy of which we possess. “He is extremely self-centered with a distinct lack of loyalty to others. His personal desires and interests always come first.”

The SVR concluded that Prince Albert was an excellent candidate for operational development and recommended the use of several named persons as a way of gaining access to him, including a senior Monegasque politician who had compromised himself in illegal business transactions with two wealthy Russians.

But in the end, the SVR did not need to play those cards. The advent of Gocha Arivadze, the North Pole trek, and the Prince’s own aide-de-camp sealed the deal beyond their wildest expectations.

Now, oligarchs like Sergei Pugachev, who reportedly launders money for Putin along the Cote d’Azur, feel delightfully secure within the principality’s borders. It matters not that Pugachev’s Monaco police file includes numerous notations citing links to the Russian Mafia. Pugachev even bought a Monte Carlo restaurant & bar for his two sons (Viktor and Alexander). their own little Moscow-by-the-Med.

And the aide-de-camp? 

Promoted to Palace Charge d’Affaires.

So it wasn’t just an emotionally unstable Greek woman who fooled Monaco’s Prince Albert.

Many of his closest friends and subordinates, but most especially Russian intelligence, play him year round.