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Prince Albert of Monaco battles corruption scandal and wife Charlene’s ‘exile’

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Prince Albert II of Monaco’s title is His Serene Highness — but life inside his pink palace on a rock overlooking the Mediterranean has proven anything but this summer.

In fact, the principality of Monaco is under fire from within as Albert fights a drip-drip of corruption claims leveled by a Wikileaks-like website, at the same time as battling to prove that his marriage to Princess Charlene is alive, despite widespread reports that she is living in exile in Switzerland and sees him only “by appointment.”

The extraordinary twin crises threaten the 65-year-old prince’s future, and the Grimaldi family’s near-eight centuries of rule over the world’s second-smallest state; only the Vatican is tinier.

A photo of the Grimaldi family.Charlene and Albert share 8-year-old twins, Gabriella and Jacques. Jacques, the elder twin, is heir to the Grimaldis’ throne.Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Albert and Charlene in MoancoAs claims that she lives in ‘exile’ and sees Albert only by appointment surfaced, Charlene took part in an awkward show of unity in Corsica. Monaco’s doubters were not assuaged by the photographs.MEGA

Monaco’s 39,050 residents — just under 7,000 are citizens — live in the wealthiest three-quarters of a square mile in the world, gazing out on a sea filled with superyachts, paying no income tax and able to while away their leisure time at some of the world’s most expensive shops and restaurants.

But inside the Grimaldis’ ancient palace located on what locals call “Le Rocher,” (The Rock), the mood is grim.

For almost two years, a mysterious online site called “Les Dossiers du Rocher” — the Rock Files — has exposed what it claims are the corrupt secrets of Albert’s inner circle.

The site has accused Albert’s powerful and longtime personal wealth manager Claude Palmero; his chief of staff Laurent Anselmi; his attorney and childhood friend Thierry Lacoste; and the president of Monaco’s Supreme Court, Didier Linotte, of fraud, cronyism, and corruption as well as undue influence on Monaco’s rich real estate and property market.

A photo of Claude Palmero and Didier Linotte.“Les Dossiers” name Claude Palmero (left), Albert’s personal wealth manager of more than 22 years as one of those involved in graft. Didier Linotte (right), president of the Supreme Court, is among others named.

The self-dealing claims have involved vast sums of cash.

The “Dossiers” alleged that in just one case Lacoste was paid $640,00 for “legal advice” in a case in which a developer won a $163 million court ruling.

The judgment was made by Lacoste’s — and Albert’s — close friend Linotte at the Supreme Court.

A photo of Laurent Anselmi and Thierry Lacoste.Albert’s chief of staff Laurent Anselmi, left, and his lawyer and childhood friend, Thierry Lacoste, round out what French media have dubbed the “G-4.”

The “G-4,” or “Club of 4,” as the four are called by French media, denied the corruption claims. But after police reportedly searched each of their homes in July and confiscated many of Palmero’s documents and his cell phone, Palmero and Anselmi resigned.

Lacoste reportedly is no longer acting as the prince’s lawyer.

There are fears in Albert’s circle that some or all of the four could turn on the prince. 

Palermo is already suing him, while Lacoste’s knowledge of the family’s secrets goes back decades; his father was press secretary to Grace Kelly when she became Princess Grace.

A photo of Monaco.The principality of Monaco lies between France and Italy. Smaller than New York’s Central Park it is dominated by “The Rock,” whose pink palace is home to the Grimaldi royals. Shutterstock

A photo of the Rock dossier.A data dump involving hacked information about Albert’s inner circle launched in the fall of 2021. It’s called the “Dossiers du Rocher” but its Wikileaks-style fallout has plunged his court into crisis.

Worryingly for all concerned, French police have become involved, raiding homes the four owned outside Monaco.

Monaco has long operated its own code of secrecy, leading to the old joke that it is a sunny place for shady people.

The mysterious leaks have started a guessing game about who could be behind them. 

Some in the principality think the “Dossiers du Rocher” may involve billionaire Monaco real estate mogul Patrice Pastor, 49, whose father was the principality’s biggest developer but who has often clashed with Albert and his inner circle over property deals.

A photo of Prince Rainier's family.A young Albert with his father, Prince Rainier, mother Grace Kelly, and sisters Caroline and Stephanie.SSPL via Getty Images

Albert, meanwhile, has been forced into a very public attempt to win back trust. 

“When the trust is broken and there are no clear answers to the questions that are asked, decisions have to be made,” Albert told Le Figaro in July.

“The “Dossiers” brought to light, via the internet, certain activities of people who were working with me. As I said: if the trust is broken, it is impossible to continue working together.”

Robert Eringer, who worked for Albert as an intelligence adviser from 2002 to 2007, told The Post that the monarch had tried to convince the public he was ignorant of the corruption, but said that in fact, Albert had been warned. 

A photo of the prince and princess of Monaco.Albert and his wife, Princess Charlene, shared an awkward hug after the prince flew to see her in South Africa in August 2021. Instagram/Princess Charlene

“He knew all along,” said Eringer, who later battled Albert after his dismissal from the palace and has blogged about him since. “He knew because I was there and investigating (some of) these guys and I told him.

“I said, ‘It’s ridiculous what’s going on here. You can’t let your old friends from when you were a child rule the roost here. They’re going to run this country into the ground, your legacy is going to be seriously damaged.’ And that’s exactly what has happened. He didn’t stop it.”

A Monaco resident of 40 years told The Post that Albert was “genuine” in wanting to fix Monaco’s reputation for corruption when he succeeded his father Prince Rainier to the throne in 2005 but added: “Reality soon kicked in and of course, his personal behavior had severely compromised him.”

Robert EringerRobert Eringer served as Albert’s intelligence advisor from 2002 to 2007 and said he warned him about corruption in his inner circle.

The resident also alluded to long-held beliefs that the power of corrupt groups is too great to curb. “Just look what happened to his brother-in-law.” Princess Caroline’s 30-year-old husband, Stefano Casiraghi, was killed in a speedboat accident off Monaco in 1990 that many at the time thought to be suspicious.

One crisis would be enough for any monarchy, but Albert has had to launch a second public relations campaign in recent days to convince the world that his marriage of 12 years to Princess Charlene, the former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, 45, is not over.

Charlene was reported by the French outlet Voici to have moved out of the palace, and to be living in Switzerland and only seeing her husband by appointment. 

Then her Instagram account, which had 464,000 followers and 96 posts was deactivated, only fueling the belief they had split.

A photo of Princess Charlene.Princess Charlene at the memorial service for her friend King Goodwill Zwelithini in South Africa in 2021.POOL/AFP via Getty Images

A photo of Princess Charlene.Princess Charlene shaved part of her head prior to this Christmas event in Monaco in 2020.POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Albert’s marriage has been the subject of rumors since Charlene reportedly fled the palace before their 2011 wedding – only to return and weep through the nuptials.

The gossip intensified in 2021 when Charlene went to South Africa for what turned out to be a months-long stay; Albert said Charlene’s long stay in South Africa was purely for medical reasons.

“She didn’t leave Monaco in a huff! She didn’t leave because she was mad at me or at anybody else… she didn’t go into exile. It was absolutely just a medical problem which had to be treated,” he said.

However, when Charlene returned to Monaco, she lasted only a few days before Albert said she “wasn’t well” and she departed for treatment at a Swiss facility. Her returns since then have been sporadic.

A photo of Prince Albert and Princess Charlene.Albert married the former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock in July 2011 in his palace in Monaco: the civil ceremony in the throne room, followed by a religious ceremony in the courtyard. Charlene wept through part of her wedding.Getty Images

Charlene and Albert in formal wearCharlene and Albert have long faced questions over the nature of their marriage.Corbis via Getty Images

After the claims that she was living in self-imposed exile, the couple were photographed on the beach in Corsica last month.

If it was to prove they were still a couple, it did not convince the doubters. 

Charlene wore a wetsuit on the beach despite steamy temperatures, sitting awkwardly in a beach chair next to her husband, while their 8-year-old twins, Jacques and Gabriella played. 

It has long been speculated that some of Charlene’s issues stem from Albert’s philandering past. 

He has two illegitimate children. Jazmin Grimaldi, 31, was the product of a brief fling with Tamara Rotolo. Alexandre Coste, 20, was born after his affair with Nicole Coste, a former Air France flight attendant from Tonga.

Last week Albert celebrated his son’s birthday with his mother and half-sister.

Prince Albert, his ex-lover and his two love children celebrating.Albert, his one-time lover Nicole Coste (right), his daughter Jazmin Grimaldi (second from left), and his son Alexandre Coste (third from right) celebrated Alexandre’s 20th birthday last month. Instagram

A key public test of Albert’s marriage to Charlene is due within days. 

The two are scheduled to travel to Sun City in her native South Africa on September 13 to launch a race on waterbikes, modeled on a similar event held off Monaco, to raise funds for water safety.

What happens next with Albert’s marriage and fight to save his reputation is unclear. The media office at the Palace of Monaco did not return an email from The Post.

“All bets are off with her (Princess Charlene),” an insider who has lived in the principality for 30 years and recalls sailing with a cigarette-smoking Wittstock off Monaco when she was engaged to Albert told The Post. 

Prince Albert II and his 31-year-old daughter Jazmin in 2020.Albert and his 31-year-old daughter Jazmin in 2020.WireImage

“She’s a hard person to read. Nobody really knows what happened to her. She may hate Monaco but she could still cut a deal and go live in Paris and see her kids. Everyone thinks there’s something more going on.”

No one, including Eringer, thinks Albert will ever abdicate from ruling Monaco nor do many think an actual divorce is in the cards for him and Princess Charlene.

One Monaco resident told The Post that she thinks the couple will “just limp along. Monaco is a machine that no one is going to shut down.”

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