Three criminal cases in Monaco highlight yet again the boundless creativity of scammers and thieves, including a fraudulent architect, an apartment sale scam, and a robbery, though the last of these was merely a re-enactment of a previous event that nonetheless set social media buzzing.
Casino Robbery Re-enactment
“There has been a robbery at the Fairmont!” A rumour to this effect had spread in the Principality recently. But fortunately it was only a rumour, one which had been repeated rapidly on social networks. At the origin of this false information was an unusual police deployment in front of the Fairmont Hotel and a blockade of vehicles and pedestrians from avenue des Spélugues.
No, a robbery was not taking place there but the investigation of an armed robbery was being re-enacted. From 3 pm, under the authority of Monegasque judge Morgan Raymond, the alleged perpetrator of the robbery and hostage-taking at the Graff jeweller, on 19 December 2016 in the heart of the Monte-Carlo Casino, was taken from the detention centre in Monaco. Surrounded by a police force of about fifteen security officers, the 44-year-old Serb was placed in front of the Fairmont hotel, where he was arrested eight minutes after the robbery. All the protagonists in the apprehension were therefore found on the avenue des Spélugues to reconstruct the scene of that Thursday 19 December. In all, about thirty people were thus found at the scene of the interrogation of the suspected robber.
From a police source, the re-enactment went smoothly. But the chaos caused by this deployment of police forces stirred the fear that there had been a new episode of violence in the Principality. Fortunately, this was not the case. In the end, the man accused of this robbery with hostage taking was sent back to prison on le Rocher.
The Correctional Court has just sentenced an Italian forty-year-old to a fine of 2,000 euros suspended for having used, from 2013 to 2016, the title of architect of the Principality. This profession is protected in the same way as lawyers and doctors. The Order of the Architects of Monaco treats such matters seriously, to the point of denouncing, after many reminders, this professional’s conduct and actions. In fact, the name of the defendant appears in the Order of Architects. But from the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region!
“The jurisprudence is very clear,” noted Judge Florestan Bellinzona. “If a foreign person who settles in Monaco refers to a regulated profession by mentioning his place of residence, it violates the law. This appears on all your documents.” At the stand, the accused insisted that he acted in good faith when he indicated his title of architect followed by his main residence located in Monte Carlo.
“He pretends not to understand.”
“There would have been no ambiguity,” said the magistrate, “if you had mentioned the head office in France. Because in Monaco you are not an architect.” The civil party added: “Besides the fraudulence of the title, the defendant’s company clearly exceeded the limits of the authorised services. He pretends not to understand. He plays with words and is at the limit of regularity and irregularity. For he has no office in France, but in Monaco. Moreover, his limited liability company is not authorised to be primary contractor. Of the seventeen cases referred to, one might assume this person practises in Monaco. Such documents may also cause confusion for clients.”
At the hearing, the Senior Appeals Counsel Olivier Zamphiroff underlined the importance of preserving the quality of the profession of architect by stating: “The practice of the accused is to play the system through inaccuracies. Then, he quotes the search engines where his company appears in a good position, specifying his base in Monaco. Nothing is clarified, this points to trouble! You should condemn this person to a fine of 2,000 euros.”
“Then the crime has not been committed”
These are unfounded criticisms according to the defence, “Is there any element in this file where my client avails himself of being a Monegasque architect?” asked Jean Marc Szepetowski, of the Bar of Nice…
“No. Then the crime has not been committed. Giving his business card where the profession is mentioned: this cannot have such an imperialist interpretation under the penal law. On the other hand, he cannot conceal a profession for which he obtained the diplomas. One must be serious: there is no school of architecture in Monaco. All the Monegasque graduates have obtained their qualifications abroad. It is surprising that this has provoked such a reaction.”
The court followed the requisitions of the public prosecutor.
Apartment sale scam
We are far from the usual tricks used for renting holiday homes: an Italian scammer has just set the bar! He pretended to be an intermediary in order to propose to an investor the sale of a superb imaginary home in a building of high standing in the Principality. Though, for a real fee. Unmasked, the suspect has appeared before the criminal court. He was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment and will have to pay € 157,000 to the civil party.
A deposit of 150,000 Euros
Who has never dreamed of residing in a four-bedroom apartment of 120 m2 on the seventh floor of the Monte Carlo Star?
And for the price of one million euros, defying all competition? An Italian resident, attracted by the idea of settling in this privileged location between the terraces of the Casino and the sea, signed a contract on 5 June, 2012. Pleased and eager to complete the transaction, he paid a deposit of 150,000 Euros without having visited the apartment. The agreement concluded, the handing-over of the keys was scheduled for June 2013. But, the buyer quickly began to feel some anxiety. The intermediary, an entrepreneur from the Turin region, became unreachable and the money from the deposit disappeared. The victim made inquiries and noticed that no dwelling was meant to be sold in the building. The victim demanded the cancellation of the contract with the return of the sum paid in May 2014. Promises and silence were his only answers. He filed a complaint.
“What has become of money?” asked Judge Jérôme Fougeras-Lavergnolle.
“One part was for me and the other for the businessman,” said the defendant. “I retained 63,000 € because I served as negotiator for the sale!”
The magistrate: “But you knew that this apartment did not exist.”
The guilty party confessed, “I soon realised that it was a scam. I found myself in an extraordinary situation. I was mandated to carry out the operation. Without knowing the owner and without any document. So I looked the other way. But this four-room apartment exists. It was sold for between 7 and 8 million euros. For my part, I pledge to reimburse the victim.”
“The price of a small studio”
The civil party, represented at the hearing by Hervé Campana, expected no less, and will advance the sum of 172,000 € with damages.
“One million Euros? It is the price of a small studio at the Condamine,” announces the prosecutor Cyrielle Colleauat the start of his indictment. “There is no evidence in this case that the accused had a warrant from the owner. The sale does not exist! The building does not exist! It is indeed a scam and the sum of € 150,000 has never been returned.”
The penalty claimed? Eight months imprisonment with trial and obligation to compensate the victim. Ultimately, the court will be less severe than the Crown.
Luckily, despite the cunning attempts of criminals, the perpetrators of these three particular criminal cases have ultimately found justice in Monaco.