Monday, March 30, 2015


At 6:30 on the evening of 9 October 2002, I met Prince Albert in Suite 906 of Hotel Columbus while his bodyguards waited outside.

On our agenda that evening:  the Chandler brothers and their company, Sovereign Group.  

The only known press article at that time about the Chandlers or their company had been published in the Financial Times (July 6th, 2002) by Moscow correspondent Andrew Jack.  He wrote that brothers Richard and Christopher were “intensely private” and “extremely low-profile.”  

The deeper we dug into their activities, the better we understood why:  at best, the Chandlers were running an unregistered commodities business in Monaco, atop an apartment building purchased by their company, Sovereign Plaza, Ltd. (registered in the British Virgin Islands) in January 1998 for 423,000,000 French francs (sixty-five million dollars), in cash.  They renamed the building Sovereign Plaza and kept it completely empty, aside from its top two floors, where each brother kept an apartment and from which they ran their investment trading company.  

Richard Chandler
At worst, they were laundering money for Russian interests, including Gazprom, in which they were the fourth largest investor—and fronting for Gazprom’s extensive money laundering and kickback schemes.

The first piece of data linking the Chandlers to Monaco dealt with the dissolution of Chandler House, Ltd., a New Zealand property company struck off the record on January 30th 1991.  As they were residing outside of New Zealand, the brothers were obliged to provide their address:  Le Soleil d’Or, 14th floor, CD Rainier III, MC 98000 Monaco. 

A decade later, in addition to owning Sovereign Plaza, the brothers owned and resided in villas in nearby St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.  

Additionally, they bought and renovated the old David Niven estate in St-Jean facing the Med, where they had planted their elderly parents.  

They also possessed their own yacht, helicopter and jet plane, along with a security apparatus that was described to us as “like Fort Knox.”

To be certain that Sovereign Plaza housed a thriving unregistered business enterprise, we conducted surveillance one morning.

It was an awkward location, opposite the heliport, where someone either on foot or in a car for three hours would come under suspicion.

Christopher Chandler
So we recruited an artist, who set up an easel and painted a landscape while noting the plates of no fewer than eighteen vehicles entering the underground car park—brokers and support staff working for the commodities enterprise.

Further inquiries revealed that the Swiss government was in the midst of a similar investigation:  Investigating magistrate Ivo Hoppler, whom I dispatched my deputy to visit in Zurich, believed that Sovereign Group engaged in money laundering for Russian clients in Switzerland and also believed it had defrauded a number of Russian investors.  

Hoppler had begun his investigation after a ruling in September 2002 by the Swiss Federal Banking Commission that Sovereign Group (Zurich) should be shut down.   Subsequent to this decision, police commenced sweeping searches at the Zurich offices of Sovereign Forex Ltd, Sovereign Capital Management AG, Sovereign Finance Group AG, and Sovereign Bank Corp Ltd.  The latter was discovered to be operating a bank without a license.  

Soon after, on October 7th, a Swiss court ordered Sovereign Group (Zurich) to cease its various operations due to alleged money laundering activities in Russia and the Caribbean.  Part of the evidence removed by police were documents linking Sovereign Forex to Credit Agricole as one of the main money laundering ports for elements of Chechen organized crime, as well as for former high-ranking officials in the Russian government.

We discussed various options with the Prince on how to counter the Chandler brothers.  Because he was still Hereditary Prince without power to take action through Monaco’s government, we agreed to commence Operation Spook:  an overt investigation that would send clear signals to the brothers that their activities were under scrutiny.  It would suggest to them that they consider looking for another country in which to base themselves and their operations.

On 11 June 2003, in M-Base, our operational headquarters in Monaco, I briefed Prince Albert various subjects, including on the Chandler brothers:

As part of Operation Spook, at my request, the Prince had asked a Monaco police inspector to look into their properties.  Whether or not this inspector’s gumshoe tactics tipped them off, or whether he had leaked his mission, or word reached the Chandlers through their own police sources, we could not be certain.  But by now we had a spy in their midst and knew the Chandlers had been spooked.   

Our spy provided us a list of everyone working inside Sovereign Plaza, along with job descriptions and telephone extension numbers, including commodity traders.

We also learned that the Chandlers planned to move their un-registered commodities business to Dubai.  

Their new dictum:  Dubai for work, Sardinia for play.  

This was excellent news, which we chalked up as another success.  After all, our brief was to secure Monaco, let the Chandlers and those of their ilk become someone else’s headache.

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