Murder in Monaco

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

Updated Oct. 21, 2014 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

It was a spring Tuesday that promised to be just another day of luxury to

Hélène Pastor

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, 77, 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 driver 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 Pastor and Darwich 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, the twice divorced Pastor also had a daughter, Sylvia. The latter -- Sylvia Ratkowski-Pastor -- was born in 1961 in her first marriage to a Polish barman, Alfred Ratkowski. Gildo Pallanca-Pastor was born in 1967 in her second marriage to a local dentist, Dr Claude Pallanca, today retired and Russia’s Honorary Consul to Monaco.

Sylvia 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 Héléne 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 Pastor died in 1990 he left his real estate empire to his two sons, Victor and Michel, and his daughter, Hélène. On the premature deaths of her two brothers, Hélène along with her nephews and nieces had started to control the Pastor real estate companies worth many billions of dollars. Today, most of the Pastor billions remains in real estate, but the younger Pastors have begun to branch out by opening other businesses like auction houses and art galleries, and in 2001 Hélène’s son, Gildo Pallanca-Pastor, bought the French company Venturi, makers of luxury electric cars. He then created a Formula–E (electric cars) racing team based in Monaco. His partner in this venture is Leonardo DiCaprio.

The value of Hélène’s estate is a closely guarded secret but it has been estimated that at the time of her death she was the owner of 3,000 of the principality’s apartments. This means that she was the owner of 15 percent of the principality’s real estate. The value of the principality’s real estate at €90,000 ($116,000) per square meter is incontestably the highest in the world. (The price per square mile in Paris’s most chic districts is around $30,000.)

Hélène’s heirs were to be her two children: Gildo Pallanca-Pastor and Sylvia Ratkowski-Pastor.


The investigation

The investigation into the fatal shooting of Pastor and Darwich was to be carried out by the police of Nice where the shooting had taken place and the police of the town of Marseille which is the administrative and thus judicial headquarters of the region, and the two police units were to have the cooperation of the Monaco police.

Wojciech Janowski

The glamour of Monaco always assures high-profile international media coverage when events worthy of news occur in the principality, but the fatal shooting of one of its wealthiest citizen made front-page headlines around the world and 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.

One taxi driver said that in the morning he had picked up two young men at the Nice railroad station after the train from 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 suspected of having been involved with the shooting of Pastor and Darwich. This brought the total of arrested to 23.

And then the shoes began to drop.

Sylvia Ratkowski-Pastor, Hélène’s daughter, was arrested and so was the man she had been living with for 28 years. He was the Polish-born Wojciech Janowski, 65, international businessman, philanthropist, and Poland’s Honorary Consul to the Principality of Monaco.

This meant that the police were holding and questioning 25 suspects.

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.”

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.  So trusted was he that Princess Charlene had even taken him on to the controlling board of the autism association -- Monaco Against Autism Association, or MONAA -- of which she is the Honorary President.

They also spoke of how he had cared for Sylvia, whom he called “Sisi,” when she underwent an operation for breast cancer in 2013.

The principality’s other honorary consuls were as certain that Janowski was innocent.  Only one honorary consul, that of Russia - Dr Claude Pallanca, father of Gildo - refused to comment on the shooting of his ex-wife: he said that he knew nothing about it and did not want to know anything about it.

The Monaco locals too spoke up in defense of Janowski. 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.”

On Wednesday, June 25, a day after Prosecutor Robin’s press conference, 10 of the 25 who the police were holding were released.

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.

This was confirmed three days later on Friday, June 27, when again having summoned the journalists to a press conference Prosecutor Robin said that Sylvia, whom he described as “in a state of shock” and “feeling let down as she had total trust in her companion,” had been “totally exonerated.”

He added 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).

He also said that as the credit balance of Janowski’s Monaco bank account was only €900,000 ($1.2 million) at the time of his arrest, the investigators were trying to find out where those millions had gone.

Another seven of those the police were holding were next released.

This meant that the police were still holding seven.

One of the seven, it was revealed, was Janowski’s personal trainer, a man 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 was born in Communist Poland on August, 15, 1949. 


In 1971, penniless, but speaking a little English he had made his way to London where he tried his hand at several odd jobs before he had become a bouncer at a London gambling casino.  


The story he told those he met in London was that his father was a Warsaw engineer.


In 1982, aged 33, and divorced from an English woman, he had become a resident of Monaco, having been taken to the principality by the renowned backgammon player Lewis Deyong to help organize a backgammon tournament in the principality.


In Monaco he remarried.


Like his first marriage his second also did not last. The two women have not been named, but the first was a cashier at a supermarket in London and the second was the daughter of a French movie director.


For the registration of his first marriage Janowski had given his profession as "leather merchant" and as "casino manager" for the second.


In 1986, the twice divorced, 37-year-old Janowski, then on the payroll of the Monte Carlo Casino as a glorified bouncer - he had to walk the floor to spot cheats and other troublemakers -  met Sylvia at a party in Monaco. Amiable and an elegant dresser, he had become part of the principality’s "beautiful people." He also had a most impressive curriculum vitae which he was showing around.  He claimed that when he had left Poland in 1971 it had been to enrol at Cambridge University and that he had received his M.A. in Economics from Cambridge in 1975.


At the time Sylvia was married to an Italian industrialist and living in Turin, but despite that the couple had a small daughter, the marriage was in trouble, and soon she was back in Monaco, and Janowski had moved in with her and her child, him lovingly caring for the child. 


Living with Sylvia and known as Hélène Pastor’s "son-in-law," Janowski banished his "poor Polish immigrant" past forever.


Therefore, in 1997 when Sylvia gave birth to his child, a daughter, today 17 years old, no door in the principality was closed to him and this included those of the royal palace.  He began founding companies and invested heavily in others, no one daring to question whether he really could afford to spend so much money. Or daring to question the solvency of his business associates.


Thus 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 M.Sc., Ph.D, D.Sc. and M.A. degrees, or put "Dr." in front of their names.

Their degrees, they claimed, 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. 

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

Another of the “associates” could be -- still can be -- viewed on LinkedIn in a casual black t-shirt sitting in front of a timber-frame cabin. He acted as Janowski’s public relations man. PR -- his website has suddenly gone down -- is 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” was 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.


As for Janowski’s own 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.


Confessions, denials and charges

Janowski, being held in a police cell in Nice, turned down the offer of legal representation.  So too the offer of having an interpreter. (In France it is standard police procedure during an interrogation to offer a “foreigner” an interpreter.)  He had nothing to say because he had had nothing to do with the killing of Pastor, he said.

On Thursday, June 26, in the evening, facing a fourth night trying to sleep on a hard bunk in a cell, he opened up. But just a little. He admitted to having heard that a shooting was going to be carried out, but he had no information that he could pass on to the police, he said.

As the night progressed, still refusing legal representation and an interpreter, he admitted that, yes, he had discussed the possibility of doing away with Hélène Pastor with someone. He gave the police the name of  Dauriac, his and Sylvia’s personal trainer, but said that he had not done anything about it. Dauriac had then presented him with a plan of how Pastor could be murdered. Dauriac had told him that he would not carry out the killing himself, but would oversee it and for that he wanted €200,000 ($270,000). He had given him the money.

Pastor had humiliated him, he told the police, 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.

Janowski did not at that stage know that Dauriac had by then already answered each question the investigators had addressed to him and his story was different. Dauriac had claimed that it was Janowski who had planned the murder and that he had already spoken of it some two years earlier and that four months previously he had ordered Dauriac to put the plan into motion.


Dauriac also told the police 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. This meant that no one had made money from the murder.


The killing of Darwich, Pastor’s driver, was not a mistake, he also said. Janowski had insisted on the killing of the driver 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.

Like Dauriac, Ahmed and Hamadi had also confessed. Each had said that the other was the shooter. The CCTV footings had shown that Ahmed was the shooter.

Janowski, Dauriac, Ahmed and Hamadi were charged with “first degree homicide,, and the other three with “complicity to murder.”

All were incarcerated in Marseille’s Les Baumettes prison. The prison has the reputation of being France’s toughest.

 On Tuesday, July 1, Janowski, having decided that he did need legal representation after all, had hired the Marseille lawyer, Erick Campana, appeared before a judge at the Marseille Court House and retracted his confession.

Janowski claimed that the police had nneither offered him legal representation nor an interpreter and he had therefore not understood the terms his interrogators had used in their 96 hours of questioning. He had played no role, he claimed, in the assassination of Hélène Pastor and Mohamed Darwich.

Maître Campana asked for his client to be freed on bail. (In France a lawyer is addressed as ‘maître’.)

 Bail was refused and Janowski returned to his cell in Les Baumettes.


Life in Les Baumettes

France’s legal system works slowly and the Pastor case promises to take even longer to get to court because for the investigation the police would have to go to 11 countries: Poland, England, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, Dubai and the Isle of Man. In each they would have to interrogate Janowski’s former associates, many of them who would refuse to talk.


In Monaco too those who had once coveted Janowski’s friendship and goodwill are now claiming that they did not know him and have no information which could assist the investigation.


However, from snippets of news revealed over cocktails in the bars of Nice and Marseilles it is known that Janowski has just one friend now. This is a fellow Pole named Constantin Kulikowski who is an interpreter and translator based in Nice. Kulikowski has been assisting Janowski with the French language, translating and interpreting for him, for the past 22 years. He is doing so again now, always present during interrogations.


In an interview with the French-language Monaco daily Monaco Matin Kulikowski said that he visits Janowski in prison always giving him a few euros with which to buy himself something nice to eat in the prison shop: Les Baumettes’s food is famous for being appalling.  Janowski and Sylvia’s 17-year-old daughter is also trying to ease the prison’s culinary shortcomings by giving her father €200 ($255) every month for buying food in the prison shop.


Kulikowski also said in the interview that Janowski must give Maître Campana’s law firm €200,000 ($255,000) as a retainer which is money he does not have. The law firm has also taken possession of Janowski’s Patek Philippe watch as surety.


So penniless is Janowski that he did not even have money to buy himself a comfortable pair of shoes: Kulikowski had to buy it for him. He also bought Janowski a French-Polish dictionary.


As for Sylvia Pastor, according to a report by the French radio station, RTL, she has broken all contact with Janowski.


The radio station further reported that Sylvia had learned through the investigation that money she had given Janowski to buy an apartment in London for her two daughters, he had used to buy an apartment in London for himself, and then he had mortgaged the property. Also, that in 2012 when she had asked him to have a yacht built for the two of them, he had handed her a fake bill: He had added a million euros to the cost of the yacht.


What could his sentence be?

If found guilty of “first degree murder” Janowski could spend the rest of his life in the austere isolation cell which is now his home.


Kulikowski however told Monaco Matin that Maître Campana thinks that his client could be found not-guilty on a technicality. The lawyer did not say what this technicality would be.


Sighs of relief

Monaco’s wealthy, famous and beautiful are giving sighs of relief knowing that Hélène Pastor was not killed in an underworld hit. Or indeed by one of them: Janowski having again become just another “Polish immigrant.”

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