I was Prince Albert of Monaco's private spook

Ex-novelist who ran intelligence service for Monte Carlo's royal family relaunches legal action against his old boss

There's nothing like a good spy caper to help pass the time, as you kick back in a sun-drenched deckchair. But the latest page-turner to enthral the good people of Monte Carlo is casting ominous shadows over its resident community of tax exiles and jet-setting billionaires.

The colourful tale is by one Robert Eringer, an American novelist and former private investigator, who a few years back was hired by Prince Albert II, the absolute monarch of Monaco, to help root out corruption and organised crime in the moneyed Riviera micro-state.

Now Mr Eringer has gone rogue. In a lawsuit filed last month, swiftly withdrawn, and last week filed all over again, he has gone public with details about the selection of dubious courtiers and foreign crooks who, he claims, surrounded the prince during a bizarre five-year period when he acted as the monarch's full-time private spy.

At first glance, parts of the original 34-page document, which Mr Eringer lodged at Santa Barbara Superior Court in California, where he now lives, seem too outlandish to be true. He describes a city where Russian and Italian mafiosi rub shoulders with crooked Freemasons and, to pluck one example of corruption from the lawsuit, one European politician was "behind a number of real estate investments paid for with money siphoned off from Russia's energy sector".

Yet at least one of Mr Eringer's claims, which are accompanied by more than 100 further pages of supporting evidence, was recently substantiated. Lawyers representing Prince Albert in the US admitted last week that Mr Eringer had worked for their client "for a time" as a "private intelligence adviser".

More worryingly for the rich and famous Monaco residents whose alleged activities feature in the lawsuit, Mr Eringer's decision to return to the legal fray has also spawned a noisy PR offensive. In recent days, he has granted interviews to several European news organisations.

The snowballing scandal prompted France's influential Le Nouvel Observateur magazine to wonder if Prince Albert, 51, the son of the actress Grace Kelly, might attempt to deflect attention from the Eringer affair by marrying his South African maîtresse en titre, Charlene Wittstock. The publication said the affair could also prompt a swift clean-up of Monaco's financial sector. Mr Eringer's lawsuit says he has documentary evidence backing his claims about the alleged murky dealings of some of the city's most famous residents.

"I'm not going away, and I won't be silenced," he said from Santa Barbara. "This case has gone beyond being a legal battle. It is now a matter of principle." At its heart, though, lies a substantial sum of money. Mr Eringer is seeking €40,000 in what he says are unpaid wages, plus around €300,000 in severance pay, to cover his work for the Prince immediately before the breakdown of their relationship in 2007. He claims to have been hired in 2002, when Prince Albert was heir to Monaco's throne, and to have been asked to root out corruption.

For the next five years, Mr Eringer says, he was paid to set up and manage the Monaco Intelligence Service, an organisation providing Prince Albert with advice and information about some of Monaco's most prominent men. The lawsuit says he successfully "infiltrated" the local media, and investigated a string of business tycoons, some of them British, along with several members of the Italian and Russian mafia who were trying to use Monaco to launder money. He also says he had dealings with British intelligence, the CIA and secret services for a range of countries.

Mr Eringer claims to have tipped Prince Albert off about Mark Thatcher's attempts to gain residency in the state, resulting in him being rejected as an "undesirable". His original lawsuit also alleges that he persuaded MI6 to brief Prince Albert in advance of foreign tours, and set up a meeting between him and the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller.

The arrangement began to sour only after Prince Albert succeeded to the throne and encountered stiff resistance to his ambition to clean up Monaco, Mr Eringer claims. The country was finally removed from the OECD's list of "unco-operative tax havens" in May this year.

Mr Eringer says he was never formally sacked. Instead, the prince one day simply stopped sending him money and returning his calls. As a result, he's now seeking payment for the months he carried on working for him, prior to realising that his job was finished.

His initial lawsuit was withdrawn after it emerged that the prince would seek head-of-state immunity from prosecution. However, the second suit names the Principality of Monaco, rather than just Prince Albert, as defendant, meaning it has a greater chance of proceeding to trial.

Stanley Arkin, the New York lawyer retained by the prince, maintained yesterday that Mr Eringer's lawsuit was "improper" and said it formed part of an effort to blackmail Prince Albert into silence. "He is trying to exploit the US judicial system to generate publicity to forward his extortionist agenda," he said.

Mr Eringer responded yesterday, saying: "If they want to accuse me of extortion, they should have me arrested. Blackmail is a serious crime and, like every aspect of this case, I would be happy to fight it in court."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Application Developer / Software Developer

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software development compa...

Recruitment Genius: Brand Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you wish to be part of an exciting journey ...

Anna Woodward: Anna Woodward

£25,000: Anna Woodward: My client is a rapidly expanding global company who sp...

Beverley James: Transactions Manager

£30,000: Beverley James: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a person looki...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower