Murder in Monaco

Jul 21, 2014 - by Marilyn Z. Tomlins - 0 Comments

The Principality of Monaco leapt onto front pages across the world on May 6, 2014 when an assassin fired a volley of gunshots at billionaire Hélène Pastor and her chauffer. Both would die later from their wounds. More scandal soon followed when police arrested the long-time companion of Pastor’s daughter, Wojciech Janowski, Poland’s honorary consul to the tiny principality since 2007.

by Marilyn Z. Tomlins

Prince Albert, ruler of the Principality of Monaco, remains angry over how the English playwright and novelist Somerset Maugham had described his country decades ago as “a sunny place for shady people.”

The description has done the small city-state of less than one-square mile no harm because now it has more millionaires per capita than any other country in the world.

To make these millionaires feel safe, Monaco also has more CCTV surveillance cameras on its streets than one will find in any other country. Crime in and around the city’s luxury designer boutiques is almost nonexistent.

However, on May 6, 2014, Monaco’s tranquil security was shattered when one of its millionaires -- no, billionaires -- was felled by a volley of gunshots.

The murder

Hélène Pastor

It was a spring Tuesday that promised to be just another day of luxury to those living in the glass-fronted apartment buildings which most of us will only ever see when watching the Monaco Grand Prix on television.

So indeed did the day promise to be for Hélène Pastor, the principality’s wealthiest citizen after Prince Albert and his two sisters, the princesses Caroline and Stephanie, as she set out on her way to visit her 47-year-old son, Gildo Pallanca-Pastor, who was recovering from a stroke in Archet Hospital in the neighboring French town of Nice.

Mid-afternoon, her visit over, Pastor was seated in her dark-colored Lancia beside her chauffeur and major domo of 25 years, Mohamed Darwich, 64. As the car was just pulling away from the hospital’s parking area, a gunman walked up to the automobile and opened fire through the windscreen with a sawn-off hunting rifle. The car continued for a few yards and then crashed into a parked automobile.

When the medics arrived they found both the 77-year-old Pastor and the chauffeur slumped over and covered in blood, grievously wounded, but alive.

The shooter was nowhere in sight, but eyewitnesses told the police that he had rushed from the scene on foot. They said they had seen another man with him. Neither of the two had taken the precaution of covering his face.

Four days later on Saturday, May 10, Darwich died at the Saint Roch Hospital of Nice, the blast of bullets having hit his heart and stomach. Pastor, hit in the jaw, neck and chest, was recovering from her injuries in the same hospital, and her doctors did not fear for her life.

Eleven days later on Wednesday, May 21, her death was however announced: Her condition had suddenly deteriorated and her life could not be saved.

Prince Albert was reported to be devastated. He and his pregnant wife, the former South African swimmer, Charlene Whitstock, now Her Serene Highness, Princess Charlene of Monaco, attended the very private funeral. The media was banned and helicopters circling overhead made sure that no photographs could be taken.

Before she died, she had told the police that she had not received any threats to her life. She did not even have any enemies, she said.

Hélène Pastor

Although she was one of the wealthiest women in the world, Pastor had lived discreetly in Monaco, almost never attending any society event.

Apart from Gildo, she also had a daughter, Sylvia. The latter -- Sylvia Ratkowski-Pastor -- was born in 1961 in Pastor’s first marriage. Gildo Pallanca-Pastor was born in 1967 in her second marriage.

Sylvia, the companion for the past 28 years of the Polish-born Wojciech Janowski, 65, a man with an M.A. degree in Economics from Cambridge University, and Poland’s honorary consul to the principality since 2007, used to complain to her friends that her mother loved her brother more than she loved her.

Notwithstanding that both she and Gildo received a monthly allowance from their mother of €500,000 ($680,000), she also said that her mother was more generous towards Gildo.

How did Pastor become so wealthy?

Her story is one of which dreams are made.

In the 1880s a poor Italian stonemason, Jean-Baptiste Pastor, arrived penniless in the principality from the Liguria region of Italy. In 1936, some of the public buildings he had worked on having caught the eye of the then ruling prince, Louis II (Prince Albert’s grandfather), Jean-Baptiste was commissioned by the prince to build a football stadium. From then on there was no looking back for the Pastors. After Jean-Baptiste’s death his son Gildo had begun to buy up waterfront land on which he constructed luxury apartment buildings. He had also continued to build for the ruling princes. What is more, the two families --the ruling Grimaldi family and the Pastors -- had become friends.

When Gildo died he left his real estate empire to his two sons and his daughter Hélène. On the premature deaths of her two brothers Hélène had become the sole owner and operator of the Pastors’ real estate empire. No journalist has even tried to estimate her wealth, but a wild guess is that she is the owner of more than 3,000 apartments which come to 15 per cent of the principality’s real estate.

Dead, her heirs were her two children: Gildo and Sylvia.

The investigation

The investigation into Pastor’s assassination was to be carried out by the police of Nice and Marseille and with the cooperation of the Monaco police.

The glamour of Monaco always assures high-profile international media coverage when events worthy of news occur in the principality, but the shooting of its wealthiest citizen made front-page headlines around the world and only intensified as the facts of Pastor’s assassination came to light.

As television’s news anchors also led with the news, not many hours passed before taxi drivers went to the police in Nice and spoke of two individuals they had had as passengers on the day of the shooting.

A taxi driver said that in the morning he had picked up two young men at the Nice railroad station after the train from the nearby town of Marseille had pulled in. He had driven the two to a hotel in town.

Another two taxi drivers said that in the middle of the afternoon each had driven a young man to the Archet Hospital.

A fourth taxi driver said that at the end of the day he had picked up two young men at the railroad station who wanted to be driven to the town of Marseille because they had missed their train. They had argued with him over his fare for the 96-mile ride but had finally agreed to pay him €500 ($680).

From CCTV footage at the crime scene as well as at the railroad station, and having lifted fingerprints and taken DNA samples in the hotel room the two young men had stayed in that day, the police put names to them.

They were Samine Said Ahmed, 24, a French national of Comorian origin, and living in Marseille, and the 31-year-old Alhair Hamadi, also a Comorian and living in the northern French town of Rennes. (The Indian Ocean Island of Comoros used to be a French colony.) Both had done time in French prisons for robbery with violence and for drug dealing.

Not announcing that they had identified the two young men, the police tapped their cell phones. Records the phone companies had supplied had already revealed that they had been in Nice and in the vicinity of the hospital on the day of the shooting.

The two were soon arrested.

On Monday, June 23, the French police arrested another 21 people -- 12 in Marseille, five in Nice and four in Rennes -- suspected of having been involved with the shooting of Pastor and her chauffeur. This brought the total to 23.

One of those arrested was another Comorian. He was an auxiliary in the gendarmerie (militarized police).

And then the shoes began to drop. Sylvia, the murdered woman’s daughter, was arrested and so was her companion, the Honorary Consul Janowski.

At a press conference on Tuesday, June 24, the chief prosecutor of Marseille, Brice Robin, said that the investigators had not yet established the connection of Sylvia in the killing.

The investigators had though established through studying the cell phone records of Ahmed and Hamadi that her companion, Janowski, had been in touch with the two. His cell phone records had confirmed this.

Said Prosecutor Robin: “Right now, suspect financial movements have been identified on Mr. Janowski’s bank accounts which need to be explained.”

Wojciech Janowski

He added that the investigators had also established a link between Janowski and another two of the arrested men. The two had put him in touch with Ahmed and Hamadi. They were not named.

Asked by a journalist whether the murder was therefore a contract killing, Prosecutor Robin replied: “We can think that, but it’s too early to talk of motives.”

Some of the investigators though revealed “off the record” that they were leaning towards a dispute over money as motive for the killing, and that there was no doubt that Janowski was the instigator of the killing.

Meanwhile, Sylvia’s friends told the media that they were certain that she could not have known that the assassination of her mother was being planned. They described her as a dignified and reserved woman.

It was as incomprehensible to those who knew the couple that Janowski had played a part in Pastor’s assassination. Known for his charitable work for which he was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest award, they described him as a man of great elegance, culture and generosity. They spoke of how he had cared for Sylvia, whom he called “Sisi,” when she underwent an operation for breast cancer last year.

The principality’s other honorary consuls were as sure that Janowski was innocent.  They described him as always prepared to step in to assist where there was a problem.

There was a problem.

As someone who wished to remain anonymous told me: “It is common knowledge here in Monaco that there are arguments in the family about money. This is a family which always wants to be richer and richer.”

A day after the press conference, on Wednesday, June 25, 10 of the 23 who had been arrested were released: four of them from the 14 who had been arrested in Marseille; two of the five arrested in Nice, and all four who had been arrested in Rennes.

Ahmed and Mamadi were not among the released.

Neither were Sylvia and Janowski.

Focusing on Sylvia

Sylvia Pastor 

Rumors began to circulate that the police had begun to focus on Sylvia.

The investigators wanted to know why her mother’s condition had so suddenly deteriorated when her doctors had reassured her daughter and her unofficial “son-in-law” that she was to make a complete recovery.

They learned that on Tuesday, May 20, in the evening, Pastor had received a visit from her daughter.

At midnight, when the nurses had noticed that things were not so well with the patient, they summoned the doctors.  Despite all effort to save the woman’s life, she passed away at dawn of the following day, May 21.

Was Pastor’s death a double-murder?

Had someone entered her private room and administered some substance which had killed her, seeing that the shooting had not?

But her private room was guarded 24 hours a day by armed guards and no one outside of the hospital staff could have entered her room.

Her daughter was in fact her last visitor -- and the last person from outside the hospital to have seen her alive.

Did the police have a case of matricide on their hands?

Twenty-four hours later Sylvia was released.

She had only been “helping the police with their investigation of Wojciech Janowski” the prosecutor’s office stated.

Another six of those the police were holding were released at the same time.

This meant that the police were still holding seven.

One of the seven, it was revealed, was Janowski’s personal trainer named Pascal Dauriac. The latter had been the personal trainer of both Janowski and Sylvia for the past 10 years.

Another of the seven was Janowski.

Who is Wojciech Janowski?

Wojciech Janowski’s life is riddled with affiliations with men whose businesses had a nasty habit of folding shortly after having been listed on lightly regulated stock exchanges.

These “associates” all claimed to hold MSc, PhD, DSc and MA degrees, or put ‘Dr.’ in front of their names.

Their degrees they had obtained from Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, Saint Andrew’s University in Scotland, Warsaw University, Toronto University, the University of South Africa (UNISA) and Cambridge University. UNISA is a strictly correspondence university.  As for Janowski’s M.A. in Economics from Cambridge University, still perhaps the most prestigious economics degree in the world, it is bogus: he is “unknown” to the university’s alumni database.

One of the “associates” of Janowski claims that he has been a visiting professor at Stanford, Berkeley, St Andrew’s and at the University Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris.

Another of the “associates” can be viewed on LinkedIn in a casual black t-shirt sitting in front of a timber-frame cabin. He acted as Janowski’s PR man. Public relations -- his website has suddenly gone down -- are however just one of his expertises. Another is offering counsel on a wellness site.  He is the “associate” who claims to have a degree from the University of South Africa: the degree is an M.A. in Religious Studies.  He is also a director of several businesses in Canada and Poland, all in the energy, oil and chemical fields.

Another “associate” is a Polish-born former Canadian and Monaco resident, now back living in Poland. This “associate” specialized in “pump and dump” investment fraud. His dubious financial history commenced with the collapse of a Canadian company in 2001 and culminated in 2005 with a spectacular implosion of a UK-listed company which ended in London’s High Court. England’s Guardian newspaper termed the case “the greatest stock market heist of all time.” At the five-week trial there were revelations of faked bios, faked university degrees and paying bribes -- and of death threats.

Talking

Janowski, being held in Nice, turned down the offer of legal representation.  He had nothing to say because he had had nothing to do with the killing of Pastor, he said. Then, on Thursday evening, facing a fourth night trying to sleep on a hard bunk in a cell, he opened up.

He admitted to having known that a shooting was going to be carried out, but that was all.

As the night progressed, still refusing legal representation, he admitted that, yes, he had discussed the possibility of doing away with Pastor with Dauriac, the personal trainer, but that when he had not done anything about it, Dauriac had presented him with a plan of how it could be done. Dauriac wanted to be paid for overseeing the murder, and had asked him for €200,000 ($270,000). He had given him the money.

Pastor had humiliated him, he said, because she had not accepted him as part of her family, and she had also humiliated her daughter and because he loved her daughter dearly, he wanted to put an end to her suffering at the hands of her mother. Therefore, his having agreed to Dauriac’s plan to murder Pastor was an act of love.

Dauriac had by then already answered each question the investigators had addressed to him and his story differed from that of Janowski. He said that it was Janowski who had planned the murder and that he had done so already some two years ago, and it was in January this year (2014) that he had put the plan into motion. He also said that Janowski had paid him not €200,000 but only €140,000 ($190,000) which he had to share with the others in the killing team.

The killing of Darwich, Pastor’s chauffeur, was not a mistake, he said. Janowski had insisted on the killing of the chauffeur in order to make the police believe that he was the primary target in what was an underworld killing. In other words that Pastor’s killing was collateral.

Ahmed and Hamadi were also confessing. Each said that the other was the shooter. The CCTV footings had shown that Ahmed was the shooter.

What now?

The seven, having been officially charged with the murder of Pastor and Darwich, will await the trial in Marseille’s Les Baumettes prison. The prison has the reputation of being France’s toughest.

 Janowski, Dauriac, Ahmed and Hamadi risk life imprisonment for first degree homicide. The others face jail terms of 10 years or more for complicity to murder.

Janowski has been stripped of his title of honorary consul.

Tomasz Orlowski, Polish Ambassador to France, said in Paris that an irreproachable reputation was needed for that role.

“In the present circumstances there can be no question of trust,” Poland’s foreign ministry added from Warsaw.

As an honorary consul does not enjoy diplomatic immunity there is no possibility of Janowski not paying in full for his crime.

Sylvia has been “totally exonerated” as Prosecutor Robin said at a press conference on Friday, June 27. He described her as “in a state of shock” and “feeling let down as she had total trust in her companion.”

The prosecutor also said that she had denied to the investigators that there had been a conflict between her and her mother, and that there had been arguments about money. She gave as proof of this the fact that over the past year her mother had given her money for her to hand over to Janowski. The amount was €8.5 million ($10.8 million).

As the credit balance of Janowski’s Monaco bank account was only €900,000 ($1.2 million) at the time of his arrest, the prosecutor said that they were still trying to find out where those millions had gone. Some of it had not gone to pay the killing team because Janowski also had an offshore account in Dubai from which he had withdrawn €250,000 ($340,000) in nine transactions between Tuesday, April 22 and Sunday, May 4, two days before the killing.  Why he had needed that amount was being investigated. He was not saying.

Disbelief

Despite what is now known about the killing of Pastor and her chauffeur, Janowski still has supporters among Monaco’s wealthy.

He has, these supporters are saying, enough money not to have to kill for more.

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