In three cases of crime in Monaco, a man was accused of defrauding a pensioner, a young man crashed into a fountain, and two Danish managers face imprisonment for false bankruptcy.
Acquitted of defrauding pensioner
He was suspected of having robbed a Monegasque pensioner of the amount of 2.5 million euros, but this citizen from across the Atlantic was finally acquitted by the Criminal Court. In this case, the American was prosecuted for fraudulent facts and fraudulent misuse of a vulnerable state. The accused is a 76-year-old man, born in Algiers and of French nationality, and a naturalised American in 1988. One day in 2003, at a chance meeting, he became acquainted with the pensioner in question, a former Dior accountant who invested his money mainly in secure investments and had some 3 million euros on his bank accounts. Very soon, the two men became friends and invested large sums in real estate in the United States, mainly in Florida.
In 2009, the nephew of the retiree was alarmed to discover that his uncle had been reduced to a single apartment in the Principality. All the money had gone, in 2007. The subprime mortgage crisis with terrible financial consequences led to the collapse of real estate in the United States. Was this the real reason for the retiree’s abysmal losses? “It is clear from the investigation that all his operations were financially unsuccessful,” said Judge Florestan Bellinzona. For the defendant, on the other hand, business was flourishing, as it was for his relatives. At the hearing, it appeared that the businessman had lied about his true identity: he pretended to be the illegitimate son of a countess. As for his professional past: he never held a high level position at Pan Am but was a simple steward. Everything became even more turbid and nebulous as soon as one checked his criminal record: he claimed to have a clean past. Yet, according to the investigation, this individual appeared to have been a notorious crook in France. A letter sent to his first wife when he was detained in 1970 is also on file. The court ultimately turned to the US authorities for testimony on his journey to Miami, where he currently resides. “The letters interrogatory addressed to them,” reminded the magistrate, “was intended to verify the fortune, patrimony, sources of income, and so on. But this never returned to the courthouse of the Principality.” There was also no success in the charge of abuse of vulnerability. The two medical assessments of 2010 mention “a person in full possession of all his mental faculties, not suffering from any memory disorder or reasoning”.
The nephews demanded justice, because their uncle, now 92 years old and remarried, no longer helps them. They believed he was the victim of the American crook. To support them in this procedure, Didier Escaut noted that the funds of the pensioner had been placed under guardianship due to his state of diminished responsibility. He also highlighted the new and recent union with the secretary of the accused: “This woman is first in line to appropriate the apartment at the Parc Saint-Roman in the Principality.” The lawyer was not the only one to mention manipulations, fraudulent manoeuvers, the loan of 750,000 €, a signed lease to settle claims, diversions, etc. Alexis Marquet added that his client “urged his guardian to sell his apartment in order to settle the debts he accrued with the businessman. Successions of donations, real estate transactions and other financial arrangements completed the fraud. In return, no property title and no property will have benefited the retiree. Truth is stranger than fiction.” The Senior Counsel Olivier Zamphiroff had no way of questioning the allegations of the accused and regretted the absence the nonagenarian. “The latter decided to embark on daring adventures. It was his choice! He’s a decisive man and experts are not unanimous in demonstrating his vulnerability. This case should be dismissed!”
In defence, David Rebibou and Jérôme Culioli, from the Nice Bar, were “surprised and reassured that the family is finally getting closer to their client”. But they were surprised “that they claim 5 million euros as a civil party. The image of a united family is a fiction. They reacted in 2009 when there was nothing left. It’s disgusting! Everything that is reproached to our client happened on American soil. So you will not be able to enter the sentence. The prosecution cannot prove any fraudulent action. The intent to defraud is not proven. The civil party is simply dissatisfied that they are getting a diminished inheritance.” The court will follow the requisitions of the public prosecutor. However, the lawyers for civil parties will consider a possible appeal.
Drunk at the wheel of his vehicle, a Monegasque student finished his race against the fountain of the Fairmont hotel! It is not certain whether he just wanted a refreshing dip in the water. At the hearing of the Criminal Court, it was clear that between drinking and driving, this young man of about twenty years had not genuinely chosen to hit the fountain. In this state at the wheel of his Seat Ibiza, on 9 July at around 5:30, he missed the famous corner of the Avenue des Spélugues. When the policemen arrived at the scene of the accident, they saw the car immobilised in the turn and turned on its right side. The car had hit some metal poles before ramming into the fountain. The agents were worried about the driver’s health, but it was more fear than harm: the driver got away with a few bruises. But he was drunk at a rate of 0.72 mg per litre of breath. “What did you drink? To put you in such a state?” asked Judge Jérôme Fougeras-Lavergnolle. “You had a pale face, glazed eyes, a stammering and repetitive speech. The scene was caught on camera and we see you arrive at an excessive speed in the turn, with the lights off…”
The defendant tried to minimize his responsibility: “I had felt like I was sliding, as if I had been driving on a puddle of oil. I returned from a night spent at the Zelo’s where I had had three glasses of vodka…” The magistrate interrupted the young student. “The investigation showed that there was no oil on the road. Luckily there were no people out at this time. You thought that after having consumed so much you could take the wheel?” The defendant claimed responsibility: “I recognise that alcohol influenced my behaviour. I understood my mistake and learned my lesson. I will not do it again! I contacted the hotel managers and the town planning department in order to reimburse the costs.” In turn, Prosecutor Cyrielle Colle reminded the accused: “You were absolutely not able to drive your vehicle. It is important that at the end of this procedure you understand that after drinking one cannot maintain control.” A sentence of eight days’ imprisonment with suspended sentence and a fine of 45 € will be required. The court will follow the requisitions of the public prosecutor.
Three years after the closure of the “SARL JР Construction”, the two Danish managers, John Olsen and Peer Pedersen, have been sentenced by the Criminal Court to one year and six months imprisonment respectively for fraudulent bankruptcy. The court decision came a little over a month after the hearing on the case. This, despite the request for nullity of the procedure for linguistic incomprehension at the level of documents claimed by Yann Lajoux for his client Olsen. In 2001, the company moved to 20 Boulevard Princesse Charlotte, in Monte-Carlo, and hired many employees. A few years later, the SARL began to collapse. In 2013, several customers filed complaints.
The contracts were signed. Deposits paid. But the work was never done. On 6 February 2014, the payment ceased and an investigation was initiated. Obviously, the managers felt the trouble coming. They had fled quickly from the Principality.
“Over the course of investigations,” noted Judge Jérôme Fougeras-Lavergnole, “the police discovered the level of the misappropriated financial amounts. Amounts totalling € 800,000 for Olsen and € 250,000 for Pedersen were transferred from the SARL account to their personal assets. A trustee in bankruptcy was appointed. He noticed, among other things, that a dozen commercial vehicles were registered in Monaco. Where have they gone? One of the vans was found in the Var department with Polish workers on board! This would suggest that the two defendants continued their activities in France …”
For the Civil Parties, Jean-Pierre Licari denounced the fact that “most of the transfers were made before the liquidation. The money was siphoned off as the private wealth of the two managers, and without assets the company could no longer function. It peaked at 923,000 euros. The defendants must repay it…” Pierre Anne Noghes-Dumonceau, for his part, denounced “the implementation of a Ponzi scheme where the funds paid by customers are found in another company. Complainants must be compensated!”
At the hearing, the Senior Counsel Olivier Zamphiroff regretted the absence of the offenders. Then he rejected this system “where everything is calculated to take possession of the goods of a society”. He stated he intends to “moralize and sanction the life of business”. He denounced “those Danish managers who disappeared and one of whom does not appear at the bar because he fears aggression. Be serious! They have used money which does not belong to them to enrich themselves. These people should be sentenced to between five and ten years’ imprisonment.” Astonishingly, four years for Olsen and two years for Petersen were handed down, with reprieve! This did not prevent a vigorous reaction of Yann Lajoux. “Most of the operations cannot be considered part of the offense,” insisted the defence lawyer. “The ten vehicles found in Nice were never registered. The Polish workers used them for other construction sites. Reject all the applications of the civil party and pronounce an acquittal!” The court however proved harsher than the prosecution with prison sentences!
In the end, these three cases of crime in Monaco highlight the possibility of fraud in all sectors, as well as the danger of drunk driving.