Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fear & Loathing in Monte Carlo

What is happening in the ritzy playground of Monaco ?. Stories abound of the South African beauty Charlene Wittstock fleeing the principality over tales of her philandering fiance fathering children but then being 'persuaded' by French police in Nice to return after her passport was confiscated.

 Robert Eringer is a former investigative journalist who has also worked for the FBI and CIA, written a book on the mysterious Bilderberg group and 5 novels. For a few years he was Prince Albert's security expert and set up Monaco's intelligence service. He reported directly to Albert.
According to the former spymaster Monaco has changed for the worst since Albert took over from his father.

Erlinger says Albert is an 'habitual liar' and is ruining Monaco's reputation. He reckons Monegasques are "horrified by Albert's self-indulgence and self interest and are aghast at his clownish behaviour". And he says that Albert has fathered a third child, an eighteen month old boy whose mother is a waitress in a Moroccan  restaurant with a 'dubious reputation' in Nice.

wedding guest Sophie Edington
Erlinger says it was news of another illegitimate child that was the final straw for Wiittstock that saw her flee. Palace officials have threatened to sue for libel and legal letters have been sent to the French newspapers La Monde and L'Express that first broke the story of the prospective bride's flight but Erlinger says tellingly, those letters only demand the name of their informant. Apparently Albert is terrified there is a leak in his palace and according to Erlinger there are heaps more potential scandals to emerge. He says Albert's subjects are alarmed by the shady characters that have flocked into Monaco. Erlinger whose job included background checks on potential residents says he warned the Prince that many had dubious backgrounds but that Albert has ignored all his advice.

More worrying is the fact that the feared Russian Mafia  now have foothold in the tiny country. Erlinger no longer works for Albert and he's launched a lawsuit in the US against Albert and Monaco for unpaid wages.

Lady Mary-invited
The Shuttle went to Monaco once in the 1980s. That was on a junket hosted by Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi who owned a European magazine we worked for at the time. Three days spent lazing on his luxury boat Nabila (later sold to Donald Trump) and nights at the casino were enormous fun. We never went back but we did meet Prince Albert a few years ago at a party in Sydney hosted by Lady Mary Fairfax at her home Fairwater which doubles as the Monaco Consulate. Lady Mary has been invited to the wedding but is too frail to attend.

Today begins three days of celebrations for the royal wedding and Australian guests will include swimmer Sophie Edington , a long time friend of Wittstock's. British and European royalty and celebrities like Karl Lagerfeld will pack the principality for the celebrations that  Monaco residents hope will bring back the glamor days of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. Robert Erlinger isn't feeling too positive about that happening.

While nearly 500 people were celebrating at the Finger Wharf in Woolloomoloo on Thursday for the Variety charity and a host of local show-biz star were entertaining, a tragedy was being played out right next door.

Yesterday the news broke that former Australian Idol judge Jay Dee Springbett  had been found dead in his apartment directly opposite the wharf. Jay worked for Sony Music and was originally from the UK. He was instrumental in the careers of many local stars like Human Nature and Jessica Mauboy

Sony boss Denis Handlin had become worried that he hadn't heard from Springbett and phoned local police who discovered Jay's body in the early hours of Friday morning.

It's been reported that Jay may have been suffering from a heart defect. Friends say he was enthusiastically making plans to holiday with his wife Louis McCole and his two small daughters. Denis Handlin says he will set up a fund in Jay's name so his daughters are financially cared for and music pals like Natalie Bassingthwaighte have rallied around to support them.