Monaco’s Already Floundering Reputation Worsened by Civil Servant’s Unethical Dealings

Article published on Jan. 13, 2017
Article published on Jan. 13, 2017

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Monaco has a reputation for hosting some very rich people and providing them with very favourable living conditions – only, in recent times, its justice system has also developed a bad reputation, to the point where its integrity has been questioned. Here’s why.
Monaco is better known for its rich residents, expensive parties, show-off Formula One Grand Prix and casinos than for anything else. Even its prized oceanographic centre is easily forgotten, and so are the efforts made by its Head of State Prince Albert to polish Monaco’s image and accumulate as much good press as he can. The problem of course, is that with some of its residents obviously handling money acquired in illegal circumstances, and the Principality receiving warnings from the international community for being a tax haven, a dilemma arises: how can Monaco withhold this positive reputation that the good Prince has so intently been fighting for? The main problem with such a concentration of rich residents, of course, is the higher statistical probability that their money might have been made illegally or might have transited outside the global fiscal system (thereby constituting tax evasion and making the move illegal). Unsurprisingly, a number of Monaco residents were cited in the Panama Papers, for instance – including one Antoine Narmino, the son of Mr Philippe Narmino, who is none other than the Head of the city-State’s justice system! Interesting indeed. If this were not enough (and putting aside Philippe Narmino’s incredibly bad reputation as a heavy-handed partygoer, husband with a string of affairs and more harrowingly, as a bent magistrate) other members of Monaco’s judicial are now suspected of ties with less than reputable figures. Other civil servants have been frowned upon for making questionable private decisions – Jean-Pierre Dreno, one of Monaco’s highest-ranking magistrates, bought a house in Italy from a man with alleged Mafia ties… and did so for a very cheap price. Mr Dreno justifies this by explaining he did not know the seller’s judicial past, which is all the more surprising since Mr Erminio Giraudi, who sold him the house, has been directly implicated in the huge Italian Mediaset corruption scandal. This would, at best, constitute some form of recklessness… Another example of unethical behaviour has been provided by Mr Didier Linotte, the current President of Monaco’s Supreme Tribunal, who even though he had been named its President, continued to administer a large number of companies until they were progressively disbanded – and until he started a consultancy firm six months ago. Monaco’s European neighbours are not amused, however. According to an article published this December by French news magazine ‘Le Point’, the Council of Europe discreetly sent a delegation of its anti-corruption commission to Monaco in late November to interview a number of key Monegasque political personalities and try to make some sense of all these bizarre practices. It won’t come as a big surprise that a country which has long been labelled a discreet tax haven may have some residents with a strong interest in hiding their dealings and their fortunes. One would be naïve to believe that Monaco has come perfectly clean since it declared a war on corruption a few years ago. What’s problematic is that the justice system itself is now under scrutiny for its opaqueness and arrangements. And that might not really make for the laudatory press that Prince Albert likes to read about his country.