The Principality’s judicial system is under scrutiny after a number of its high-ranking members’ suspicious dealings.
According to French magazine ‘Le Point’ that published a story about on December 27th, 2016, in the last days of November 2016, a delegation of the ‘Group of States against corruption’ (code name: GRECO) made a very discreet visit to Monaco. GRECO, one of the bodies emanating from the Council of Europe, was interested in interviewing high-ranking civil servants, members of the Principality’s judicial system and elected representatives in order to clarify their positions on a number of past and ongoing scandals and allegations.
At the same time in Marseille, in the South of France, a trial was being held over the alleged heavy corruption which had occurred around the construction of the Odeon tower, a high-rise building which now dominates the Monaco skyline. This wasn’t the first time Monaco was accused of being a haven for under-the-table practices. For years, the Principality had had a reputation for closing its eyes on some of its residents’ activities. The administration, however, had remained free of that shadow for years – up to now.
First came rumours about high-ranking members of the judicial services. The usual rumours: corruption, sex scandals, too many parties and an unhealthy taste for the spotlights. The reputation of Philippe Narmino could have justified an enquiry in itself. His leisurely and high-profile lifestyle, notoriously raunchy extramarital affairs, and numerous accusations of having bent the law to protect his male lovers are not exactly what is expected of him as a top-level civil servant, much less of a member of the judicial services. To put it simply, he brought a black cloud over his role and the way he took it. Scathing journalistic reports about Mr Narmino had indeed started attracting light on his questionable attitude, and it certainly hasn’t helped the image of Monaco’s justice system.
Then came some other cases of openly unethical behaviour: a magistrate, Mr Jean-Pierre Dreno, bought a villa from an Italian man with Mafia ties who had been under investigation for his implication in the Mediaset corruption mega-scandal (ah, those Berlusconi years!). Mr Dreno says he didn’t know about the villa seller’s past. He has since been transferred to another position. There was also the case of a high-ranking civil servant who wanted to be transferred to Monaco but didn’t want to abandon his responsibilities and attributions in Paris as he should have…
And there was Mr Didier Linotte, the President of Monaco’s Supreme Court. As a President, he remained the owner and/or administrator of a number of private companies, until they were dissolved one by one. Undeterred, Mr Linotte started a legal consultancy firm in Paris six months ago, which he openly agrees “derives from (his) judicial functions”. At least the unbelievable ingenuousness displayed by the magistrate leaves no doubt as to the confusion between his activities as a public servant and his activities as a consultant… The accumulation of examples seems to have broken the camel’s back, and it certainly explains the presence of GRECO in Monaco a few weeks ago.
What all these scandals, affairs, and possible criminal cases (let’s not forget that some dealings of which these magistrates have been accused of are punishable by law) had brought to Monaco so far was bad press. Up to date, the local solution to these problems was to ignore them. After all, if some of these magistrates had been put on trial for what they were accused of, it might have caused quite a stir… but everyone chose to look away. Everyone except the Council of Europe, who seems sick enough of all this nonsense to have sent a delegation to enquire. Politely. For now.