A man from Naples was called before the criminal court. The Monegasque Judge suspects this 64-year-old Italian native of having imported two contraband diamonds, in violation with the 1963 customs ordonnance between France and Monaco.
He’s a strange man, who seems to not understand what has happened to him and claims innocence. However, as the case unfolds, the accused’s troubled past is revealed. Even more unusual are the claims of the origin and destination of the gem stones, which varies during the hearing.
In fact, these events are down to pure chance. On 11 February 2014, around 3 am, the bartender at Flashman alerted security as a BMW had rammed into another car in Saint James’ square. When police arrived, they found the driver was drunk. He claims to have left Naples that morning after a fight with his wife and he had intended to head to the Monte-Carlo casino and was going to San Remo. He was searched at the jail and an officer found two diamonds, of 1.42 and 1.3 carats respectively. Was he hiding them? Was it a theft? Were they real? Upon inspection, the diamonds were evaluated 240,000 and 137,000 euros. Judge Jerome Lavergnolle asked the man, “How did you obtain these stones?”
“It was in 2002 or 2003, I had consulted with a gemmologist in Naples, he owed me a gambling debt, and I gave him 80,000 or 90,000 euros.” The Judge was surprised by this difference in price. “The Italian evaluation must be lower,” stated the accused. “In my country, we do not give invoices or receipts. I wanted to build an inheritance for my children.” The Judge was again surprised: “The gemmologist who authenticated these stones claims to never have met you. Instead, he was contacted by a young woman who had requested these documents with a threatening tone. He was worried there would be trouble. At the time, you were in prison in Le Rocher. You got out on 28 May 2014 after paying 9,000 euros’ bail. We intercepted a coded phone conversation with your daughter…”
The story of the Italian is pure invention and little new information came to light during the trial in the end. He had kept the diamonds after his marital conflict, “because I didn’t want my wife to take them. Put them in a bank? Not possible, I’m forbidden from having an account and I cannot have a cheque book or a safety deposit box. Also, I quit my job as a sculptor, and now I work for a cleaning agency.”
His file reveals multiple charges between 1973 and 1999 for carrying arms, fraud, and contraband, among others. In the requisitions, prosecutor Alexia Brianti stated: “If the region of Naples has certain cultural particularities, this individual has certainly surpassed them. He had planned to sell the diamonds in Monaco.” She asked for a year in prison and for the stones and the car to be confiscated. Christophe Ballerio requests a more lenient sentence, as there was no proof that he intended to sell the stones in the Principality.
Bribery at electricity company
A recent case at the Criminal Court focussed on presumed corruption charges. A case of deflection of public procurement procedures has implicated the representative of an electricity company STAG, specialising in automatic garbage collection systems, and the department head of Urban design, the one who gave the orders. For the first, the supposed corrupter, it was a question of obtaining special privileges with regards to future work, and for the second, the presumed receiver of this bribe, would receive compensation in exchange for his complacency.
Complicated? The court was able to find out more by looking into the administrative procedures for procurement. To award a contract, in Monaco, there is no obligation to put out a public tender for up to 150,000 euros. One merely has to have three local companies involved. Then, quotes are requested and the least expensive one is selected, and this is validated by the authorities. The civil servant had contacted the businessman to be involved in a 150,000 euro order, with another colleague also submitting a quote, and then he prepared his own, in order for it to appear the cheapest. The one from STAG was selected and his company received the tender. In exchange for this, the civil engineer would get his house wired for 8,000 euros, 25% less than the normal price, and tax free of course.
Their complicity also extended to another market, valued at 89,000 euros, relating to the work done in the Le Giotto building complex at Fontvieille, for automatic garbage collection, but the project was rejected. Nonetheless, the invoice was made and the money paid by the state to the businessman in 2013. Finally, the 3rd part of this saga, the electrician produced a false invoice in order for the civil servant to obtain a loan worth 83,700 euros. The whole situation blew up in 2014 when the electrician made the accusation that he had not been paid the 25,000 owed for the work in Saint Agnes.
When questioned by Judge Florestan Bellinzona, the two men keep to their stories. The corrupter insists he had to work and was pressured by the civil servant. He claimed “I didn’t want to receive State money without having done the work. But in the end, I was forced to invoice knowing that if the project was abandoned that I would get something else in return.”
The receiver of the bribe contests this statement and says that everything was done in the interest of the State, as the practices in place were meant to favour national interests.
True or false? The true goal of the competition for tender was revealed to be falsified, and so there was evidence of passive corruption. Herve Campana requested a reimbursement of the invoice at 89,000 euros, plus 10,000 for court fees and 10,000 for moral damage.
Senior prosecutor Olivier Zamphiroff stated that it was the reputation of the Principality that suffered under this case, as one of the department heads was primarily involved. He asked for the civil servant to receive 2 years in prison, suspended, and a fine of 20,000 euros. For the second accused, a heavy fine. The defence would plead for leniency, stating that the corruption was not proven.
A stabbed chef in Monaco restaurant
An Albanian man, Ricard Nika, will be going to prison for a long time. He presented himself at court with a wounded arm, as the suspected murderer of A.F., an Italian chef at the restaurant Pulcinella, in Portier. He was apprehended by a police patrol and made a confused confession to the Italian authorities, saying “I have done something bad in a restaurant in Monaco.” He was seen around 18:30 on Vittorio-Emmanuel street, near the Olimpia theatre in Bordighera. Nika had admitted to doing “something stupid (sic). I fought with a man and now I don’t know if he’s alive or dead.” Earlier that day, the server had stabbed his colleague, A.F., a 30 year old man.
The last murder similar to this had taken place in the Principality more than 20 years ago. At that time, a young woman was shot by her lover in Saige street. As it so rarely happens, this crime has caused much shock among residents. The busy restaurants and pubs on the street near the Pulcinella could not hide their pain at seeing so many white crime suits arriving on the scene. The investigation of the crime scene went on until past midnight. The body was taken out in a black bag just before midnight and a criminal officer had retrieved the knife. The whole vicinity was searched for traces of blood and CCTV camera footage inspected. Many questions remain as to what happened, including the origin of the fight and the circumstances of the bloody ending. The Italian police stated they cannot comment at present.
These three recent cases of criminal news in Monaco have shown yet again the rarity of violent crime in the Principality, but the harsh penalties for corrupt practices.