Friday, March 1, 2024

"Top Takeaways From Businessweek’s Investigation Into Monaco’s Royal Family"

From Bloomberg Businessweek, February 29:

Monaco faces a crisis following a police inquiry into the business dealings of Prince Albert’s nephews and the ouster of a longtime palace adviser.

Monaco, one of the smallest and richest countries on the planet, is recognized for its opulence—and its reputation as a “sunny place for shady people,” in the words of writer W. Somerset Maugham. It’s also been famously ruled by the same dynasty for 700 years.

An investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek reveals how Prince Albert II’s government regularly favored his nephews, Andrea and Pierre Casiraghi, for lucrative contracts in their hometown. Members of the royal family deny any wrongdoing, but today Monaco finds itself in the midst of a profound political crisis following the ouster of a longtime palace adviser and a police inquiry into the nephews’ dealings. Meanwhile, the country awaits two looming reports by international watchdogs looking into corruption and money laundering.

Here are five takeaways from our reporting. You can read the full story here. (En français: Voici cinq points clés de l'enquête)

Monaco’s Government Has Given the Prince’s Nephews Lots of Business
Monaco has a parliament and a cabinet of ministers, but the prince is the center of power in this tiny country. Albert is the son of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace Kelly. When Albert’s nephews—Andrea and Pierre—were 25 and 21 years old, respectively, they began to seek ways to make their mark in their hometown. According to the website of the Casiraghis’ real estate company, the government awarded the business “the most important public projects carried out in the Principality of Monaco.” In the early years, it worked on contracts for at least €55 million ($60 million) to rebuild the yacht club, extend the sea wall at Port de la Condamine, develop subsidized housing for locals and more.

The Royal Family Intervened on the Casiraghis’ Behalf—More Than Once
After winning public works contracts, the Casiraghis began to branch out, again relying on their uncle’s government for assistance. Their breakout deal was for a luxury apartment building steps from the famous Casino de Monte-Carlo.

But before they could get started, the Casiraghis needed help. Albert sent one of his most trusted advisers, accountant Claude Palmero, to persuade a rival developer to drop a lawsuit seeking to block the Casiraghis’ building, according to contemporaneous notes obtained by police and seen by Businessweek. In exchange for the rival’s cooperation, the prince would lobby his government to look favorably on that developer in the future. Monaco’s administration then granted the nephews’ project an exception that allowed it to be three times the height of the building it replaced.

In another deal, one that will expand the size of Monaco by pulling land from the sea, the prince was concerned about the participation of his nephews. The Casiraghis’ mother, Princess Caroline, appealed to her younger brother—and her sons ultimately wound up with a stake in the venture....