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The strange ways of pissant countries

Mark Thatcher was involved in a failed but very commendable private sector attempt to oust an African tyrant, no doubt motivated by personal gain (an entirely reasonable motivation) and as a result, Prince Albert has decided that Mr. Thatcher is not a suitable person to have his residence in Monaco. Somehow this is part of a new ‘ethical’ approach to running the Principality.

So let me get this straight… trying (but failing) to overthrow some petty ruler who treats his country as a personal possession make you un-ethical? So does that mean being supportive of the government of Equatorial Guinea would make a person… ethical?

One might almost think that Prince Albert just does not like the idea of people overthrowing any ruler of a pissant country. I wonder why that might be?

27 comments to The strange ways of pissant countries

  • Jake

    Because no one gambles more or purchases more luxury goods than rulers of pissant countries.

    Thatcher was attempting to deprive Prince Albert of the tax revenue he needs to support his lifestyle.

  • Julian Taylor

    Except that under new OECD directives Monaco might lose its status of personal income tax haven. The remainder of Europe apparently loathes the idea that its high flying citizens can reside in Monaco for 6 months and a day per annum and spend the rest of the year back in London, Paris or Madrid. Apparently under the EU’s Savings Tax Directive, Monaco will impose a witholding tax on the returns on savings such as bank interests earned by EU citizens resident there. The tax quantum will be the same as in Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg (initially 15%). 75% of such revenues will be handed over to the Member State of the respective EU resident. This will be applied beginning with 2005 or 2006.

    Lucky you, Mark Thatcher, for not getting caught up in the creeping tendrils of EU statism.

  • Nick Timms

    Being commendable depends rather on whether Mark Thatcher’s alternative to one tyrant was to set up another. One who had agreed to give Mark Thatcher certain considerations.

  • Mike

    Julian –

    How is the EU enforcing that on non-members? Does this apply to other tax havens, such as Andorra?

  • Nicolas

    At Mike: I believe that the measure that will be taken by the EU will also apply on many tax evasion countries, like even the Caymans. The EU doesn’t force these countries (untill now but off course there will be a kind of mild pressure) but negotiate the dealings.

  • Julian Taylor

    Mike, isn’t Andorra actually a separate state but jointly administered by both Spain and France just for judicial reasons? I don’t think that either Andorra or Campione are subject to the ‘double tax’ system that EU, Canadian and US Monaco residents are being hit with now though.

  • Nicolas

    But there is the EU saving directive or some kind.

  • veryretired

    The aristocracy in any culture always assumes that governance is its exclusive territory. In a world with very little aristocracy of the traditional kind left, a high-ranking position in a government confers a semblence of nobility on those who otherwise would be considered very common indeed.

    (Tranzi orgs also have some of this same aura, if one is high enough in the hierarchy. Many of the old nobility have dabbled in this type of activity in lieu of working for a living.)

    It is no surprise, then, that a member of the old nobility would move to protect the “sacred territory” of rulership from an upstart, especially since he failed. If he had succeeded, and become the President for life of the country, Thatcher would probably be accepted as legitimate in Monaco and elsewhere. His money would then be as acceptable at the baccarat tables as any dissolute shiek whose only accomplishment in life was being born.

    Whereas previously nobility had conferred position, now position confers nobility, regardless of how bloody one’s hands may be from acquiring that position or performing its duties.

    Mugabe is the obvious current example of this. He is received and feted as a legitimate head of state by various organizations and governments around the world, even though it is clear he is a brutal dictator with seriously homicidal policies towards his own people.

    Moral coherence is not the hallmark of aristocratic society.

  • Verity

    very retired – that is a very astute post. You are correct. The tranzi organisations have been allowed to elevate themselves to a position of nobility. How very odd.

  • Ben Culper

    Mark Thatcher’s favorite line used to be, “I don’t suffer fools gladly.” Neither does Prince Albert of Monaco.

  • Ben Culper

    Mark Thatcher’s favorite line used to be, “I don’t suffer fools gladly.” Neither does Prince Albert of Monaco.

  • bierce

    “dissolute shiek whose only accomplishment in life was being born”
    Thanks for that description of Mark Thatcher. BTW it’s spelt “shit”.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I saw M. Thatcher walking close by my house recently. He looked particularly pissed off.

  • benculper

    No, Johnathan, that’s his normal expression.

  • benculper

    No, Johnathan, that’s his normal expression.

  • Julian Taylor

    It is no surprise, then, that a member of the old nobility would move to protect the “sacred territory” of rulership from an upstart,

    Unfortunately I have a problem with your argument on a number of points. First of all the “nobility” of Monaco is based upon such ‘aristocrats’ as … Roger Moore, Shirley Bassey, Ringo Starr, the Barclay brothers (see earlier posts on Sark) Karen Mulder, Eva Herzigova, the racing drivers Jacques Villeneuve, David Coulthard and Jenson Button – not exactly the cream of Europe’s ruling classes I think. Secondly the Grimaldi family has, despite having ruled Monaco for over 700 years now, never really been accepted into the ‘clique’ of European monarchy, being seen more as a showbiz type of monarchy – possibly down to Grace Kelly?

    Mark Thatcher failed the citizen test for Monaco due to one simple fact – he now has a (well publicised) criminal record. One of the principle grounds for Monégasque residency, or citizenship, is that he must provide a a sworn statement stating that he has never been convicted of any offence. .

  • One of the principle grounds for Monégasque residency, or citizenship, is that he must provide a a sworn statement stating that he has never been convicted of any offence

    So by that logic, being convicted by a court in, say, North Korea or China or Burma-Myanmar of trying to overthrow their tyrannies would make you ineligable for residency in Monaco? Or how about being a woman convicted of refusing to cover up in Saudi Arabia? Sounds like Prince Albert is trying to demonstrate a suitably warped moral calculus that I wonder if he is angling to be the next head of the United Nations after Kofi?

  • Verity

    Was that internationally respected, upright, honourable businessman Aristotle Onassis a citizen of Monacco? I think he was. He owned the casino at one point.

  • Susan

    In his attempts to gain complete control of the casino business in Monte Carlo, Onassis tried to engineer a sort of coup against Rainier III; that may be why his son is so sensitive about the idea of coups.

    Rainier III outwitted Onassis by issuing an edict multiplying shares in the casino syndicate to the point that Onassis no longer had a significant share.

    He also invited the US to dock ships at Monte Carlo when De Gaulle kicked the US and NATO out of France.

    A guy capable of besting both Charles De Gaulle and Aristotle Onassis was one canny politician; too bad he only had a postage stamp stage from which to perform.

  • guy herbert

    He owned the casino at one point.

    I don’t think so. It is a state monopoly, isn’t it.

  • Verity

    Guy – I shouldn’t have made that statement because I don’t have the facts. I just seem to remember that he had a controlling interest in it at some point when it was called Societé des Bains or something … I will gladly back down on this. According to Susan, he had an interest in it but perhaps not a controlling interest.

  • Robert Alderson

    The US also refused his visa because of his criminal record. The US requires visa applicants to disclose all criminal records – I can’t remember the precise wording but there was some sort of get out that would allow you to get a visa if you had been convicted in Pyongyang for “insulting the memory of Kim Il Sung.” But the default assumption was that a criminal record would prevent you getting a visa even if it was for something like owning a gun in the UK which would not be illegal in the US.

  • fahren

    ” failed but very commendable private sector attempt to oust an African tyrant”

    What a pleasant way to describe white mischief. People like Thatcher are why Africa can’t get its act together.

  • Michael Farris

    “People like Thatcher are why Africa can’t get its act together.”

    More like one relatively small contributing factor.Insane borders and language policies don’t help either. But the biggest problem is a cultural background that places group loyalties as the supreme ethic. This is why African rulers use their positions to enrich their extended families clans and tribes in that order instead of actually governing their countries. But tawdry adventurers like Thatcher certainly don’t help.

  • fahren

    relatively small in comparison to the euro powers that shell out billions to keep ‘leaders’ like mugabe propped up with no accountability for how it’s spent.

  • Susan

    Verity and guy,

    The tale is told here: http://www.dispatchesfromthevanishingworld.com/dispatch26/printerd26.html

    Monaco and Prince Rainier have survived far worse crises than bad press. In the late fifties Aristotle Onassis arrived on the scene and before anyone realized what was happening, he had become the majority shareholder of the Société des bains et mer. “Onassis was interested in profit, and the S.B.M. is an old lady,” the prince recalled. “He said we must do away with the Salle Garnier [Charles Garnier’s opera house, finished in l875, a masterpiece of deuxième empire neo-baroque excess, with bronze angels and nude limestone voluptuaries; operas, concerts, and ballets are performed in it but there are only three hundred seats] and put in a big modern opera house. He already had some architects up his sleeve. But I was dead against it.” It ended with Rainier in l964 nationalizing the S.B.M. by creating out of the blue 600,000 new shares, which were to be held by the state. A simple move but a very effective one: Onassis was no longer the majority shareholder, and he sold his shares and steamed out of Monte Carlo in his yacht the Christina shortly thereafter.

  • Julian Taylor

    Robert Alderson, the difference between the USA and Monaco is that the USA will consider a visa application despite the criminal record of the applicant, exactly for the example you gave – i.e. where an applicant has a conviction for an offence that would not merit a prosecution in the USA. Monaco will not consider anything other than a completely blank sheet though.