“I feel sick, just very sick.” The speaker was a British woman, one of hundreds of victims of fraudster William Fogwell, who had just warned that – oh, what a surprise! – our Bill had decided not to stick around in the Principality to receive and serve his sentence for investment scams involving – the figures vary – between 80 and 170 million euros. His victim’s nausea was understandable. Fogwell had been allowed to leave Monaco after more than two years in jail and then, typically brazen, had returned to walk around the streets in the early stages of the trial, enraging those who’d been ripped off by his Melville-Hobbs gang which had run an unlicensed investment business in Grimaldiland for several years. Said our British victim, “He was an obvious flight risk. Why didn’t they put him inside again?”
But Fogwell, as we say, was a brazen fellow. When he was being held in Monaco’s jail, he used to relieve the monotony by writing self-serving letters to this magazine. When we reported the initial charges against him and mentioned that he’d been a mate of the Family, he told us that what we’d said was “damaging to the ruling house and to myself and patently untrue”. So why did he end up with a five year sentence? He won’t be serving it, of course, and that’s just one feature of the whole business which would have made the case a public scandal in any normal country. As the Director of Monaco’s Press Office told us once, “You can’t compare the Principality to your standard Western democracy. It’s an ancient monarchy with its own culture, traditions and practices.” That explains why when the partie civile wanted to call certain witnesses – including Franck Biancheri, formerly the Rock’s financial guru – Minister of State Jean-Paul Proust told the judge that this would not be “appropriate”. The judge decided, of course, that indeed this would not be “appropriate”... Some victims of this mammoth scam say they will sue the Monegasque authorities. Good luck, folks! Meanwhile, before disappearing again, Fogwell announced that he didn’t have a bean to his name and was living on handouts from friends.
There’s a lot that’s positive to be said about Prince Albert but in all sorts of ways he’s caught up in contradictions. Take the Fondation Prince Albert II, set up recently to further environmental issues. At the same time we learned of a scheme to reclaim 12 hectares of land from the sea at Larvotto. Monaco needs the space, certainly, but environmentalists are virtually unanimous in the view that such projects do major and largely unavoidable damage to marine life. What does the Fondation have to say about that? And how can any self-proclaimed environmentalist accept to live with that disgusting zoo below his windows?