Selected Excerpts from
THE GREAT HEROIN COUP - DRUGS, INTELLIGENCE AND INTERNATIONAL FASCISM
By Henrik Kruger; Jerry Meldon, Translator
South End Press©1980: Box 68 Astor Station, Boston, MA 02123
240pps - one edition - out-of-print; Orginally published in Danish
Smukke Serge og Heroien; Bogan 1976Previous chapters
THE DUBIOUS ALLIANCE
|Christian David (Click to enlarge)|
Naval intelligence badly needed the assistance of Luciano, who held sway over New York's longshoremen. One word from the capo and they would rid the harbor of Axis powers' agents and saboteurs who threatened the war effort. The navy approached Dewey, who in turn arranged a meeting with Lansky and Moses Polakoff, Luciano's lawyer. They agreed that since only Lansky could prevail upon Luciano, he would visit his boss in prison. When Lansky proposed a deal guaranteeing him his freedom at war's end, Luciano agreed to cooperate.
Thus began Operation Underworld. Luciano ordered his men to obey Lansky, who became the liaison with naval intelligence. Moreover, Luciano's contacts ensured the Allies a soft landing for their invasion of Sicily.
In early 1946 Luciano saw his reward. Dewey pardoned and deported him along with some of his lieutenants, but not before he met with agents of the CIA's forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). When Luciano's ship embarked for Italy, the U.S. appeared to be taking leave of an honored guest. Besides Lansky, Frank Costello, and other Mafia dons, a host of politicians bade him farewell, as longshoremen kept reporters at bay.
Social unrest was then sweeping Europe, particularly France and Italy, where Communists, respected for their anti‑Fascist resistance during the war, were fast gaining ground. The renowned Wild Bill Donovan, wartime head of the OSS, conceived the idea of using the Mob to battle the "Reds." Though enormously successful, the strategy also resulted, albeit inadvertently, in Mafia inroads in intelligence and politics, both in Europe and the United States.
In 1947 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was established, just at the peak of France's political crisis. The center of unrest was Marseille, where U.S. intelligence agents were already on the job. Jay Lovestone and Irving ‑Brown, under cover of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), had infiltrated French trade unions and were handing out money left and right. In November 1947, the CIA's first director, Admiral Hillenkoetter, sent a team of experienced anti‑Communist agents to Paris and Marseille. It consisted of three OSS veterans and three "representatives" of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). They were told to "do something, anything."
Pitched battles disrupted Paris the day the team arrived. The Communists had called for a struggle against the "parti Americain" and the Ramadier government had been toppled. When the agents hit Marseille, the red flag waved over the Palace of Justice, and the leftists appeared in control of the city. The six agents wired home that the situation was desperate and that drastic measures were needed.
Those measures required gangsters from the Italian and Corsican underworld, hordes of whom were sent into battle. Their methods were brutal, the fight short but bloody. Within weeks the hoods had the situation under control. The CIA had been able to mobilize them so rapidly thanks to an important local ally. In early 1947 General de Gaulle had formed a right wing anti‑Communist front, the Rassemblement du Peuple Francais (RPF), forerunner of the present‑day Gaullist, party (UDR). It soon established a security corps known as the Service d'Ordre du RPF (SO du RPF).
The corps made extensive use of Corsican gangsters against its political enemies. Dominique Ponchardier, its commander, later glorified the escapades of his Gorilles in a series of novels; other ringleaders included Roger Frey, Roger Barberot, Alexandre Sanguinetti, Paul Comiti and Jacques Foccart. The Socialist party also plunged in headlong against the Communists, and worked especially closely with the CIA. Its security corps, the SO de la SFIO, also numbered Corsican hoods in its ranks.
Among the criminals recruited in 1947 by the CIA and SO du RPF were the Guerini brothers, the Francisci clan, Jo Renucci and Jo Attia, pillars of the underworld about whom we'll say more in the chapters that follow.
Unfortunately for the six‑man CIA team, word of their underworld partnership arrived before them in Washington, where they were fired on the Spot. But that did not stop the CIA from maintaining contact with gangsters at home and abroad. On the contrary, the partnership expanded with time.
1. H. Messick: Lansky (Berkeley, 1971).
2. A. Jaubert: Dossier D comme Drogue (Alain Moreau, 1974).
3. M. Copeland: Beyond Cloak and Dagger (Pinnacle Books, 1975).
4. P. Chairoff: Dossier B . . . comme Barbouzes (Alain Moreau, 1975).
5. Copeland, op. cit.
THE FRENCH UNDERWORLD
The French underworld is divided into two main groups: the Corsican Mafia and the independent, non‑Corsican gangs. The latter are undisciplined and lack political influence. The Corsican Mafia, on the other hand, is as well‑organized as the Sicilian and probably wields even greater political clout.
The story of the Corsican Mafia recalls that of the Sicilian. It was started by immigrants who left an island of hunger, underdevelopment, and desperation. At the turn of the century the Corsicans poured into France, particularly Marseille. At first it was everyone for themselves. Then blood‑bound clans emerged to control prostitution and the smuggling of alcohol and cigarettes. The take was initially divided equitably, but dissension soon broke out and the years since have been marked by a succession of bloody inter-family feuds.
Narcotics, heroin above all, brought the Corsicans their wealth and power. Marseille became the heroin stronghold, as local underworld chemists learned to turn out the drug with pure, chalk‑white quality. Most of it was sold on the U.S. market, where Italian and Cuban wholesalers entered the scene. In 1971 the Corsican Mafia delivered 80 percent of the heroin on the U.S. market. They deposited their millions in Bahamian, Swiss, and Lebanese banks, reinvesting some of it later in legal enterprise.
Drug trader Richard Berdin, a non‑Corsican gangster, described his Corsican colleagues as follows: "Most of them began as or still were pimps ... they generally regarded anyone who did not have a Marseille accent, didn't drink pastis or swoon over bouillabaisse, as suspect... We in Paris, especially we young hoods who came of age in the sixties, in our own way felt just as superior; we dressed mod, they dressed hood; we spoke decent French, they spoke broken Midi; we knew how to order good food and wine, they reeked of garlic and pastis; we knew how to escort and talk to women, they considered them all as hookers ... Our 'profession' often brought us into contact... But it was a shaky marriage at best. . . "
Not all Corsicans fit Berdin's description. Corsican capos live lives of fabulous luxury, with vast palaces outside Marseille, and similar abodes in Paris and Corsica. They throw lavish parties teeming with politicians, or invite them for cruises aboard their yachts.
The Guerini clan was the first to truly dominate the Corsican Mafia. It centered around the brothers Antoine, Barthelemy ("Meme"), Lucien, Francois, Pascal, and Pierre Guerini, who had been shepherd boys on Corsica before coming to Marseille in 1912. By the close of the twenties, after prolonged and bloody vendettas, the Guerinis and their allies had risen to the top. There they remained for over thirty years. Throughout their reign Antoine, the oldest, headed the clan, and the Corsican Mafia as a whole.
The Guerinis were among the first to systematically organize the smuggling of opium and morphine base from Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries. They also started the production and marketing of heroin. Heroin laboratories sprouted all over Marseille, where there was ample room for other gangs to operate either independently or in collaboration with the Guerinis.
The legendary Jo Cesari ensured the famous and coveted quality of Marseille heroin. A self‑taught chemist, he was a true master in the lab. No one in the world could teach him about the art of making heroin. He built and ran the great majority of Marseille heroin labs until 1972.
Wisely, the Guerini brothers cultivated allies among politicians. Because of Marseille's traditional socialist allegiance, they supported Gaston Deferre, mayor of Marseille since 1953 and, in 1969, the Socialist party's presidential candidate. Beyond France's borders the Guerinis were in contact with the CIA, with whom they battled Communists in 1947. Even master heroin chemist Cesari allegedly had CIA connections.
World War II brought a number of changes in the Marseille underworld. The Carbone‑Spirito gang, number two in the hierarchy, was decimated during the postwar purge for its collaboration with the Gestapo. Joe Orsini and Auguste Ricord, two of its lieutenants, fled respectively to Canada and South America, there to become important international narcotics figures. This allowed Jo Renucci's gang to assume the no. 2 spot. Renucci, Lucky Luciano's French contact, was politically active for the right wing SO du RPF. His lieutenants included Marcel Francisci and the brothers Dominique and Jean Venturi.
Francisci was born in Corsica in 1919 and demonstrated great organizational talent from an early age. He spun a web of connections on his native island. He fought with the Free French forces in Italy during the war and won medals for valor. After the armistice he joined Renucci's Marseille gang and began smuggling cigarettes and silk stockings. He also made good narcotics contacts in the Arab lands.
Starting in 1947 Renucci lent Francisci and other underlings to the SO du RPF as campaign guards and anti‑Communist strongmen. Seizing the opportunity, Francisci befriended members of the coterie surrounding Charles de Gaulle-‑future secretary general Sanguinetti, future interior minister Frey, future police chief Jean Bozzi, future Parliament chairman Achilles Peretti, future minister for African Affairs and intelligence chief Jacques Foccart, and future chief bodyguard for de Gaulle, Paul Comiti, to name a few. Francisci himself was to become a leader of the Gaullist party on Corsica and sit prominently on the island's administration, his residency in Paris notwithstanding.
Renucci's death in November 1958 spawned the Francisci‑Venturi clan. The nation‑hopping Joe Orsini returned to join the organization in 1964, while Jean Venturi left for Canada to assume control of the U.S.‑bound narcotics traffic. Though Francisci was in charge, he returned to Paris and left the dirty work in Marseille to the others. That work consisted almost exclusively of the production and smuggling of heroin. In Paris, Francisci spent much of his time playing politics and investing his wealth in restaurants, casinos, and real estate. His influence in the Gaullist party grew with his bank account.
To play it safe the Francisci‑Venturi clan took out two political insurance policies. Dominique Venturi stuck with Marseille's Socialist mayor Deferre, as had the Guerinis before him. Though his men served in the Socialist security force, Venturi himself worked for the Gaullist SAC.
At some point in the mid‑sixties the Francisci‑Venturi clan decided to push the Guerini brothers out of the picture. Two masked motorcyclists shot down Antoine Guerini on 23 June 1967. Weeks later Marcel Francisci was shot at during a political meeting in Ajaccio, Corsica, but managed to reach cover. Four Guerini lieutenants were killed in the next three months.
On 14 December 1967 two men were blown to bits planting a bomb in Francisci's home near Paris. No one else was hurt. Francisci's comment: "I forgive them."
On 21 June 1968 Francisci again escaped with his life, this time from a restaurant in Corsica as five men sprayed machine gun bullets in his wake. Passersby weren't as fortunate. One was killed, five others were wounded. The machine gunners were taken care of four months later in a Montmartre bar, by police‑clad gangsters.
Meme Guerini's efforts to avenge his brother's death ended with his twenty‑year murder sentence on 16 January 1970. With brother Francois' death in prison one year earlier, the Guerinis no longer stood in the way of the Francisci‑Venturi mob.
U.S. narcotics police have long eyed Marcel Francisci, the man they refer to as "Mr. Heroin." Whenever they try nailing him, however, they run into a roadblock. According to Francisci's supporters in French politics, he's a respected businessman, not a gangster. At Fouquet, the flagship of his restaurant chain on Paris' Champs Elysees, politicians and businessmen make important deals over dinner.
Francisci's direct underworld contacts are people he can trust completely: his brothers Jean, Francois, and Roland, with whom he meets almost daily. Under President Valery Giscard d'Estaing (who is not a Gaullist), Francisci has become even more careful. Furthermore, since 1972 the police have closed down many of his heroin operations. But Francisci has the wherewithall to survive hard times.
Of the non‑Corsican gangsters, the greatest was Jo Attia, France's most colorful criminal until his death in 1972. Though mentioned primarily because he was responsible for Christian David's recruitment as a barbouze (specialist in undercover political violence, spook), he was also the first gangster to become an international espionage agent.
He was born on 10 June 1918. His mother was a worker in Rennes, his father a Tunisian passing through. He was raised in a convent until age twelve, when he was sent to earn his keep on a farm. Out of the hard grind came the magnificent physique that would become his underworld trademark. But by age sixteen he'd had it with farm life. He headed to Marseille and joined a gang of youths. Within a year police caught him red‑handed in a break‑in. He was sent to North Africa with a penal batallion. There he learned to box and to kill, and became a close friend of Marseille gangster Pierre Loutrel. Upon their release, Attia plunged back into the Marseille underworld and Loutrel headed to Paris.
During the war Attia worked with the French resistance force, the Maquis. His main contribution was to confine his thievery to Germans and their French collaborators. But he allegedly also helped hundreds of Jews to cross the border to Spain.
In July 1942 the Gestapo arrested him and sentenced him, first to death, later to the concentration camp at Mathausen. Within days of his arrival there, Attia glanced through his barracks window to discover an SS agent beating a defenseless prisoner. Infuriated, he sprang through the door and knocked the SS man down with a booming right. Had it not been for high‑ranking German officers impressed with his valor, Attia would have been executed on the spot.
Fear did not stop Jo Attia. From the German supply depot he stole food for fellow inmates and medicine for the ill among them. Indebted to Attia for their survival of Mathausen were future justice minister Edmond Michelet and Mirage jet manufacturer Marcel Dassault. The Hero of Mathausen, Attia became the prisoners' spokesman.
Following the war Charles de Gaulle himself appointed Jo Attia to the Legion of Honor. Still, a hero's glory buys no bread. Jo thought of entering the boxing ring, but the first manager he approached broke up at the sight of Attia's tattoed body. "We're looking for a boxer," he said, "not a roadmap."
By chance Jo ran into his old friend from the penal batallion, Pierre Loutrel. In the meantime Loutrel had become one of Paris's leading crooks, "Pierrot le Fou" (the crazy). During the war Loutrel and his right‑hand man Georges Boucheseiche had collaborated with the Gestapo. But Jo let bygones be bygones and joined the Auto Gang which was then laying France to waste with a string of murders and bank robberies.
On 25 September 1946 police finally caught up with the Auto Gang in the town of Champigny, southwest of Paris. Three hundred policemen were dispatched in armored cars to the hotel where the gang was holed up. There followed an exchange of fire in the classic Chicago tradition. Other than a few underlings, the only gangsters present were Attia and Boucheseiche. Pierrot le Fou was dining at a nearby restaurant.
When the sound of gunfire reached him, Loutrel sprang into his brand new armored Delahay, not to flee, but to rescue his pals. At top speed he swung through the bullet shower at the hotel entrance and jammed on the breaks long enough for Attia to jump in. He then floored the gas pedal and disappeared. The gendarmes were left gaping. Boucheseiche, by hiding in a water barrel and breathing through a hose, also managed to escape. When the police left the scene, he emerged.
Their luck ran out a few months later. They assaulted and shot a jeweler. Carrying the take to the car, Pierrot le Fou stuffed his pistol under his belt. It fired, stopping him in his tracks. His partners buried him on an island in the Seine. Attia took over, but some of the wildness had left him. He opened a chain of bordellos and nightclubs. He also began to push drugs, while maintaining relations with the Corsican Mafia, especially the Guerinis.
In 1949 Attia was sent to prison for four years for concealing a body (that of Pierrot le Fou) and illegal possession of weapons. The prosecutor, charging Attia with murder, had asked for a life sentence. But Attia got off lightly thanks to the intervention of one Colonel Beaumont, alias Bertrand, of the SDECE, whose life Attia had saved during the war. Behind bars in Fresnes in 1952, Jo married the mother of his daughter, Nicole.
When released, Attia was tracked down by his friend Beaumont, who had become the head of an SDECE division. The colonel offered Jo a large fee to locate a Moroccan terrorist hideout in French North Africa. Attia agreed. He took a whirlwind course in secret agentry, and left that year on several missions, mostly in Africa. Sometimes he parachuted, other times he came by land. At times he worked for Beaumont, at others he was in the employ of Colonel Fourcaud, another top man in the SDECE. Always, however, the mobster roamed free under the wings of the intelligence establishment.
In 1956 Attia was sent to Morocco to kill the Moroccan rebel leader Alal el‑Fassai. But he was arrested by Spanish authorities for blowing up the hotel in Spanish Morocco where Alal was holed up. To ensure extradition to France he confessed to murdering two Frenchmen who had sold weapons to the Algerian revolutionaries of the FLN. The trial in France was a mockery of justice. Before long he was released.
In 1957, while Jo was on an SDECE mission in Tunisia, a member of Defense Minister Chaban Delmas' staff "accidentally" set eyes upon the SDECE gangster roll, and demanded to be told why Attia was working for the agency. Colonel Fourcaud. defended him as a "marvelous personality, an admirable man and one of our best agents."
After 1958 Attia worked primarily for the secret intelligence network of Jacques Foccart, the Minister of African Affairs. In 1959 Jo surfaced first in Katanga, then in Abidjan, the capital of the Ivory Coast, where he purchased a nightclub, the Refuge. It became the headquarters of Foccart's African spy ring. Several attempted assassinations of black political leaders were planned in its back rooms. Attia also established an espionage center in his Gavroche restaurant in Paris's Montmartre quarter. It became the haunt of gangsters and agents, and those who were both.
There are those who believe Attia also worked for the CIA in the same period. The Church committee report on assassinations of foreign leaders reveals the agency's recruitment of a European gangster for the murder of Patrice Lumumba of the Congo. The hit man, code named QJ/WIN, was described as a convicted criminal who could be dispatched on high‑risk missions. Although Attia was probably not the killer in question, both QJ/WIN and a second potential assassin, referred to as WI/ROGUE, are likely to be found in a census of the French underworld.
Around 1960 Jo Attia met Christian David, who was Chen just a smalltime hood. Together they worked as barbouzes in Algeria and were involved in a long series of shady intelligence capers including the infamous kidnapings of Colonel Antoine Argoud and Mehdi Ben Barka. (See chapters five and six.)
After 1962 Attia was in and out of prison, but that was probably more for his own protection than anything else. He had all the freedom necessary to carry out his intelligence missions, though eventually he was officially banned from France. He then roamed through the Congo, Morocco, and the Ivory Coast, but returned to Paris when so inclined. Police knew of his presence but did nothing.
On 22 June 1972 Jo Attia died of throat cancer. But before he did he settled a score with a rival gang led by Georges Segard and Christian Jubin. Jubin had raped Nicole, the daughter of Jo the Terrible. Segard and Jubin were handed over to the police.
Within hours of his death there were break‑ins at Jo's apartment and at his restaurant, Gavroche. Someone wanted to be satisfied that no compromising material would end up in the wrong hands. Was it the SDECE?
1. Some sources estimate the amount of Marseille heroin smuggled in 1971 at three tons, others at over six. The second figure is more likely, given the official 1972 figure of 7300 kilos; see The Newsday Staff: The Heroin Pail (Souvenir Press, 1974).
2. R. Berdin: Code Named Richard (Dutton, 1974).
3. A. Jaubert: Dossier D ... comme Drogue (Alain Moreau, 1974).
4. The exploits of the Carbone‑Spirito gang are romanticized in the film "Borsalino" with Alain Delon and Jean‑Paul Belmondo.
5. Jaubert, op. cit.
6. The Newsday Staff, op. cit.
7. Jaubert, op. cit.; P. Chairoff : DossierB ... comme Barbouzes (Alain Moreau, 1975).
8. The Newsday Staff, op. cit.
9. Francisci has sued Time magazine and a number of French journalists for trying to connect him to the drug trade, but each time he has retreated in the eleventh hour.
10. According to journalist Nicholas Gage (New York Times, 12 January 1980), there is increasing evidence, including the uncovering of several heroin labs in Marseille, Nice, and Milan, of a revived French (' onnection. Francisci himself has apparently not been active in French politics since 1974, but remains a man of considerable influence. The last heard of him was when his restaurant, Fouquet, denied access to unaccompanied women in 1979.
11. S. Vincentanne: Ea bande a Pierrot‑le‑Fou (Champ Libre, 1970).
12. N. Attia: Jo Attia (Gallimard, 1974).
13. P.T. de Vosjoli: Le Comite (Editions de l'Homme, 1975); The Newsday Staff, op. cit.
14. Jaubert, op. cit.
15. Attia also owned the nightclub "Number Ten" in Leopoldville, which was often frequented by Lumumba.
16. Les Complots de la CIA (Stock, 1976); Le Meilleur, 10 June 1976
THE FRENCH INTELLIGENCE ZOO
Trying to make sense out of French intelligence activities is like trying to find one's way out of a maze knowing there's no exit. All told, there are four intelligence services, and at various times they work together, independently, and against one another in an atmosphere of scandal and intrigue. The four are: the foreign espionage agency, Service de Documentation Exterieure et de Contre Espionage (SDECE); the domestic security agency, Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST); the police intelligence force, Renseignements Generaux (RG); and the Gaullists' para‑police force, Service d'Action Civique (SAC).
Charles de Gaulle reigned over the Golden Age of French espionage. The president was enamored of cloaks and daggers and could not get enough security from the dangers left and right. . . including those responsible for his security. Though he determined overall policy, de Gaulle kept his own hands off intelligence activities, leaving the nuts and bolts to loyal followers.
The rules had been written during World War II, when de Gaulle and his followers were located in London's Free French house. De Gaulle saw a double agent in every unannounced Channel crosser and, not infrequently, had that individual executed without regard to the petty details of justice. After the war, anonymous corpses were exhumed from the cellar of the London abode.
The SDECE emerged shortly after World War II. It consisted of seven departments that handled intelligence analysis, Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, and America. In addition there is a special action group within the SDECE, the Service d'Action du SDECE. It's not to be confused with SAC, though it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between their operations.
The SDECE employs some 2000 men and has a yearly budget fixed at $25 million. Another $50 million can be tapped from a secret reserve. Its headquarters are next to a large bathhouse in the Paris suburb of Les Tourelles. The French call it "the swimming pool."
In its thirty years of existence the SDECE has had six chiefs. De Gaulle's first, General Grossin, lasted until 1962. General Paul Jacquier, his replacement, was dropped without so much as a handshake following the 1965 Ben Barka affair. The next chief, General Eugene Guibaud, didn't last much longer. He left in 1970 when Georges Pompidou became the president. Pompidou was convinced that SDECE figures had led a smear campaign to keep him out of Charles de Gaulle's shoes. He chose the aristocratic pro‑U.S. Alexandre de Marenches to purge the intelligence agency.
A dynasty of military officers has run the various SDECE departments. The names heard most often in connection with assassination, kidnaping, and other scandals are: Colonel Rend Bertrand alias Beaumont, Colonel Nicolas Fourcaud, Colonel Marcel Leroy alias Leroy‑Finville, Colonel Paul Ferrer alias Fournier, and Colonel Marcel Mercier, who headed the neo‑Fascist Red Hand that was responsible for a string of political murders.
The SDECE story is one of continuous scandal. Murder plots, kidnapings, drug deals, and extensive collaboration with the underworld have been brought to light, but are only part of the story. France has never shown the tendency toward open government that has, for example, produced public hearings in the U.S. on CIA and FBI crimes. What light has been shed in recent years is due mostly to Phillipe Thyraud de Vosjoli, a former SDECE agent in Cuba and Washington. His books, Lamia and Le Comite, raised a furor in France. It was he who tipped off the United States about the presence of Russian rocket bases in Cuba while stationed there as a French agent. He was fired in 1963.
According to de Vosjoli, under de Gaulle a murder committee existed consisting of the president's closest political allies and intelligence officers. It plotted extreme measures against nations or individuals who threatened de Gaulle or his policies. At one point, the hit list included as many as thirty names. They included Guinea's chief‑of‑state Sekou Toure and Tunisia's Habib Bourgiba, both of whom survived. Others did not, though their deaths have been recorded as accidents.
SDECE agents working for the committee, according to de Vosjoli, were responsible for the 1962 plane crash which took the life of Italian oil magnate Enrico Mattei. Mattei, then Italy's strong man, was on the verge of engineering an Italian takeover of French oil interests in Algeria. A French agent code‑named Laurent tinkered with Mattei's aircraft, which crashed en route from Catania to Rome. William McHale, a Time magazine reporter writing a series about Mattei, was among the other dead. Apparently a similar fate awaited the journalist Mauro de Mauro who, while investigating the Mattei affair in 1970, disappeared without a trace.
The committee also had tasks other than murder. When a newly designed Russian military jet broke down during a visit to France and was to be sent home over land, Marcel Leroy of the SDECE went into the moving business. He was hired to move the jet from the airport to the freight train the Soviets had rushed to Paris. As unsuspecting Russian guards sat in a car trailing the freight truck, the jet was placed in a second truck identical to the first, in which French agents scampered about with cameras. The two trucks were switched back when the Russians were delayed at an intersection.
During a 1961 conference in Cannes, an SDECE agent broke into the hotel room of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State George Ball, and photographed all his documents while Ball snored peacefully. Similarly, an agent once rummaged through the baggage of the Moroccan ambassador to France. His eyes lit up when he opened the lock of an attache case. Inside were nothing but pornographic photos and an ivory penis together with a user guide, in a package addressed to Madame Oufkir, the wife of the notorious Moroccan security chief, Mohammed Oufkir.
In his first book, Lamia, de Vosjoli also claimed that the de Gaulle regime for a long time chose to ignore the presence of Soviet spies on French soil, and perhaps even fed them information. De Gaulle, with nationalistic pride over France's development of an A‑bomb, ignored John F. Kennedy's warnings about the Russian agents. He was tired of listening to Washington. With France about to become a great power again, the United States became its number one rival.
De Gaulle also had ideas of his own on how to win the Third World over to France. At one time France was the greatest colonial power in Africa. However, in 1961‑62 de Gaulle gave autonomy to nearly all its African possessions. His policy of creating a French "Commonwealth" was clever in principle. But the man to whom de Gaulle entrusted his Third World plans was intelligence whiz Jacques Foccart, the Gaullist Grey Eminence. The policies carried out by Foccart bore little resemblance to de Gaulle's guidelines and the newly created French Community of Nations soon fell apart at the seams.
Behind Jacques Foccart was the loyal core of his own espionage ring, and the entire SAC staff, which he'd gradually expanded into an apparatus that permeated French society and foreign locales as well. SAC had appeared in 1958, the crisis year in which de Gaulle assumed power by a coup d'etat. The RPF became the official Gaullist party, and SAC became its security force. The men who founded SAC were for the most part those who had also dominated the SO du RPF: Foccart, Frey, Ponchardier, Sanguinetti, Bozzi, Comiti, and Charles Pasqua. Comiti and Charles Lascorz were the first to direct the para‑police force. However, ultimate control always remained in the hands of Foccart.
The official task of SAC was to protect Gaullist politicians in travels and at meetings. However, by the end of its first year of existence, 1958, SAC had joined the battle against the Algerian revolutionary movement, FLN, and even then it was studded with gangsters. In the final phase of the war in Algeria, SAC agents‑les barbouzes ‑were pitted against the mutinous Secret Army Organization (OAS) whose murderous, resistance was choked off with equal brutality.
When de Gaulle granted Algeria its independence in 1962, the barbouzes turned their wrath against de Gaulle's political enemies. They became the instruments for the dirtiest of Gaullist tricks. Murder, corruption, industrial espionage, election fraud‑SAC agents could do it all.
Foccart assigned his best SAC men to key posts on French commissions for developing countries, and in offices charged with the allotment of public funds. He also dispatched them to infiltrate African regimes, where pro‑French governments allegedly paid them enormous kickbacks in return for economic assistance from Paris.
At its peak SAC comprised a core of 120 directors in immediate contact with Foccart, plus some 20,000 associates, three‑quarters of whom were estimated to have been criminals, many of them heroin smugglers. (French intelligence has frequently been accused of having both organized and profited from the trafficking of heroin.) SAC was used at home to instigate and then crush left wing disturbances, such as the time a SAC agent took potshots at a peaceful demonstration in La Mure and struck down a renowned athlete, and tile knifing of a left wing activist by a SAC agent in Drancy. Foccart's SAC agents are especially active at election time. In Socialist and Communist‑dominated areas they've often been caught stealing and burning ballots.
In 1968 SAC terrorized the student rebellion. The DST handed its SAC colleagues lists of suspected de Gaulle foes in Marseille, Lyons, and Grenoble, as part of a SAC plan to detain political "subversives" in stadiums and camps, similar to what happened in Chile.
Through the years Jacques Foccart was not only in charge of SAC, but he also had many of his top men assigned to key positions in the SDECE. While many SAC agents were also SDECE agents and vice versa, there were always SDECE men opposed to Foccart (as there are now), and that has long been a source of intrigue. In de Gaulle's time both SAC and the SDECE worked against the CIA, though several French agents played footsy with the Americans. The criminal elements were available to anyone for the right price.
Under Pompidou, and more so now under Giscard d'Estaing, the goal has been centralization of intelligence activities. The U.S. is no longer considered the number one enemy, and the SDECE has been ordered to cooperate with the CIA. Pompidou fired 7000 of SAC's crooks. Although Giscard d'Estaing would like to eliminate SAC altogether, he dares not legislate it out of existence.
At 66 Jacques Foccart hangs on as one of France's most powerful men. After the deaths of de Gaulle and Pompidou, he had thousands of documents destroyed, documents that would have exposed the Gaullists' dirtiest tricks. But Foccart has not shred all his papers. He allegedly has a file on every French politician and officeholder since 1974, which puts him in a position to blackmail many of them.
In 1974 Giscard d'Estaing replaced Foccart, as his advisor on African affairs, with Foccart's underling, Rene Journiac. Foccart retired after an additional number of years in a similar position with Omar Bongo, the corrupt ruler of Gabon.
On 6 February 1980, Journiac perished in a mysterious plane crash in Northern Cameroon.
1. J. Hoagland, Politiken, 14 June 1976.
2. P.T.deVosjoli: Le Comite (Editions de l'Homme, 1975); A. Jaubert: Dossier D ... comme Drogue (Alain Moreau, 1974); N. Fournier and E. Legrand: Dossier E ... comme Espionage (Alain Moreau, 1977).
3. P. Chairoff :Dossier B ... comme Barbouzes (Alain Moreau, 1975).
4. UDR member Charles Pasqua held a seat in Parliament and chaired a 1969 committee investigating France's narcotics problem. From 1952 to 1967 he held various high‑ranking positions in the big wine firm, Ricard Pastis. When the known heroin trafficker Jean Venturi came to Montreal in 1962 to establish a new smuggling network, his cover was as a representative for Ricard Pastis, where his immediate superior appears to have been Pasqua — see The Newsday Staff: The Heroin Trail (Souvenir Books, 1974). 5. Chairoff, op. cit. 6. Jaubert, op. cit. 7. Chairoff, op. cit. 8. As late as the summer of 1976 Marseille's Socialist mayor Gaston Deferre, and other left wing politicians, charged in Parliament that the Gaullists were about to rebuild SAC, and that murderers and thieves were again being recruited out of prison as in 1961. In the last few years, however, the Gaullists have lost much ground, whereas France's non‑Gaullist Right, with OAS figures in the fore, has gotten a shot in the arm. Many former SAC goons are allegedly currently working for this movement.
9. E. Ramaro: "Un Petit Mort Sans Significance," Afirique‑Asie, 3 March 1980. For a review of French dirty work in Africa pre‑ and post‑Foccart, see K. Van Meter: "The French Role in Africa", in Dirty Work 2, The CIA in Africa, edited by E. Ray, W. Schaap, K. Van Meter and L. Wolf (Lyle Stuart, 1979).
ASSASSIN IN ALGIERS
Christian David was born in 1929 in the city of Bordeaux in the south of France. Like most youths destined to underworld stardom, he was wild and incorrigible, picked up for pickpocketing on more than one occasion. His Bordeaux chums recall him as ostentatious and hot‑headed. By age twenty‑one he had parlayed good looks and charm into a budding career as a pimp.
Not long thereafter he purchased the Whiskey A Go‑Go nightclub. But the proceeds from the whores and the club were not enough. Greed was another of his traits. He had tasted the life of a playboy and his need for excitement bordered on the pathological. Beau Serge began to mastermind bank heists. At age twenty‑six he was arrested and sentenced to a stay at Besancon prison on a score of counts ranging from procuring to armed assault. One year later he escaped and was on the loose for several months. When recaptured he was jailed on Ile de Re outside the city of La Rochelle.
He escaped once more in the fall of 1960. This time he remained longer in hiding with the help of his friends in the underworld. It was probably then that he impressed the gangster kingpin Jo Attia, who would greatly influence Beau Serge's career. In February 1961 David was again taken prisoner and returned to Ile de Re, where he was placed under close guard. Escape number three would demand all his cunning and a dash of theatrics.
His behavior slowly altered. He uttered strange things, trembled uncontrollably, communicated with no one, and smashed his cell in fits of hysteria. The doctor became convinced of his derangement. In the summer of 1961 he was moved to the Cadillac mental hospital.
Within months a nurse became his accomplice in escape. But all was in vain. A chase through the woods and Beau Serge was soon back in his cage on Ile de Re.
All the while, however, and unknown to him, plans for David's future were being made just outside prison walls. Serious men were gathered in a house on Ile de Re to discuss a list of names. The house belonged to France's ambassador to the Central African Republic, Colonel Roger Barberot, a hero of World War II and Indochina, and chief of the Black Commandos in Algeria. Most of the men were members of the inner circle of the ruling Gaullist party. Others were princes of the underworld. One of the latter was Jo Attia. And one of the names on the list was Christian David's.
One day in October 1961 David was taken from his cell to government offices in La Rochelle, and seated in a comfortable chair opposite a man of influence and power. The man was Pierre Lemarchand, a high‑ranking Gaullist betrothed to de Gaulle's adopted daughter. When presented with Lemarchand's proposal, Christian David was dumbfounded. Freedom would be his if he agreed to join a terror corps assembled to put an end to the Algerian operations of the ultranationalist, anti‑de Gaulle Secret Army Organization (OAS). The corps was a division of SAC, the semiofficial security and intelligence unit of the Gaullist party.
Beau Serge joined SAC at once. Though admission normally required two sponsors, the rules were waived in times of crisis. During the May 1968 student insurrection one merely had to declare oneself anti‑Communist and look like a bruiser.
In the de Gaulle era an almost religious aura surrounded SAC just as it did the towering president himself. The new recruit, David, was placed on a red carpet in the middle of a room with drawn, thick curtains. Two or three SAC leaders, facing a wall, listened to the enlistee as he swore allegiance with his hand upon a Cross of Lorraine and dagger. A leader would then declare: "You are now our follower in life and death."
Christian David, and hundreds of others plucked from prison for an Algerian rendezvous, were sent to a camp in Satory. There they were run through a crash training course in weaponry, sabotage, and hand‑to‑hand combat. It left little doubt that their metiers would be murder and torture.
On December 1 the "barbouzes" landed in Algiers. Headquarters were set up in Villa A‑for Andrea‑at 8 Rue Fabre in the El Biar district, and Villa B on the corner of Chemin Reynaud and Rue Faidherbe. David was installed at Andrea; its real name, Dar Es Saada, means the house of bliss. The name fit. A pretty lane led to its main entrance and to a large garden stocked with orange trees. But the interior of this house of bliss would soon resound with the screams of those tortured in its cellar.
OAS terrorist activities, led by Jean‑Jacques Susini and Roger Degueldre, were at their peak. Bombs hurled at Algerian restaurants, buses, and public squares killed hundreds of innocent bystanders. An explosion in Paris' Charone Metro station killed eight passengers and wounded thirty. The order to the barbouze corps was clear: the OAS had to be halted at all costs.
The ensuing struggle between the barbouzes and OAS terrorists was brutal in the extreme. Resembling more a bloody vendetta than the usual sort of war, it became a test of one's imagination for atrocity. When seven barbouze bodies were found hanging from lamp posts less their ears and noses, no one doubted a more gruesome fate awaited the OAS. On 22 December 1961 the barbouzes exploded a bomb at the Grand Rocher restaurant, a known OAS haunt, killing twelve. Eight days later a large OAS force attacked Villa B. The barbouzes were about to ring in the New Year when bazooka blasts echoed all around them. Fourteen were killed and two were wounded.
On 27 January 1962 the barbouzes captured several high‑ranking OAS officers, among them Alexandre Tisslenkoff, who had directed illegal radio broadcasts. The captives were taken to the basement of Villa A and tortured. Tisslenkoff later related his days of suffering at the hands of three men: a Vietnamese, a Frenchman who ran a karate school in Paris, and a third man who swaggeringly identified himself as the "intellectual of the barbouzes." Four years later, in Paris, Tisslenkoff would recognize the last‑mentioned hatchet man as Christian David.
In his book J'Accuse Lemarchand, which was banned and destroyed in France, Tisslenkoff described being tortured by thrashing, suffocation, and electrocution, and claimed that Pierre Lemarchand was present for part of it. The latter, together with Dominique Ponchardier, headed the Mouvement Pour la Communautk, an ad hoc Gaullist group under whose auspices the barbouze corps was formed. SAC agents ransacked the publishing house as Tisslenkoff's book was about to go to press.
29 January 1962, like any other day at Villa Andrea, was filled with cries of pain, profanity, and black humor. David and Lemarchand were away. Inside were a total of twenty‑nine barbouzes and prisoners. At 5:00 PM there was a violent explosion. The villa rose like a rocket as men and concrete were hurled dozens of yards through the air. The OAS had decimated Villa Andrea with 150 kilos of explosives. Miraculously, ten men survived. Seven were barbouzes, among them Dominique Venturi, who later became one of France's leading drug merchants; three were prisoners, among them Tisslenkoff. All had been in the garden at the time.
In reacting to such violence, Christian David showed no restraint. The death of a friend could drive him berserk. Former SAC agent Patrice Chairoff, alias Dominique Calzi, claims that David was responsible for the murder of fifty‑four people in his seven to eight months in Algeria. "He was a born killer," says Chairoff.
When Beau Serge returned shortly after the explosion, he saw red at the sight of the prisoners who had escaped the fate of his nineteen comrades, whose remains were splattered everywhere. Demanding summary execution of the prisoners, he lunged at Tisslenkoff. Had it not been for officers who intervened, wrote Tisslenkoff, David would have killed him with his bare hands.
The OAS success was short‑lived. The barbouzes, until then regarded in France as a shady outfit, were buried as heroes. Their leaders cried for revenge. But the barbouzes needed no prodding. They gained more than their revenge. When the smoke cleared five months later on 3 July 1962, Algeria was independent, and the vendetta had claimed the lives of 110 barbouzes, over 400 OAS terrorists, and a far greater number of bystanders. Six years later a pile of bodies was found buried in the garden surrounding Villa Andrea's remains. Many had skulls riddled with high‑caliber bullet holes.
A new world had opened up to Christian David in Algeria. He established many contacts crucial to his later career. Among his fighting buddies had been: Michel Nicoli, Ange Simonpieri, Andre Labay, Michel Victor Mertz, Roger Delouette, Jo Attia, Jean Palisse, Georges Boucheseiche, Francois Marcantoni, Dominique Venturi, Jean Auge, Roger Dadoun, Louis Nesmoz, Didier Barone, Paul Mondolini, and Marcel Francisci. All eventually rose to the top of the French underworld. All trafficked in narcotics, and nearly all remained in touch with French intelligence.
Beau Serge had quickly ascended to the ranks of the barbouze elite. He had become the friend of such notables as Lemarchand, Ponchardier, and Barberot. Overnight he was transformed from a voyou (punk) into a man to be respected.
In the months following his return from Algiers, David lay low to avoid a vindictive OAS. He lodged incognito in Marseille's Saint Victor quarter, and soon had two prostitutes working for him. However, David had performed so impressively in Algeria that he was urged to become a full‑time agent of the SDECE. He jumped at the chance and was given the complete training course at the Saint‑Cyrau‑Mont d'Or police academy.
Upon graduation David went on a long series of missions in Africa, particularly in Morocco. It's also believed he was sent to Latin America twice between 1962 and 1965. He specialized in weapons deals and the elimination of independent dealers who encroached on SDECE territory. Mostly he took on missions for Jacques Foccart's special forces; he also temporarily slid back over to SAC. In France he helped the Gaullists fix elections. Under questioning in the U.S. in 1972 he admitted often stealing opposition ballots.
Between intelligence assignments David minded not only his own affairs, but also those of Jo Attia, who was officially in prison and, for a period, in exile in Africa. David ran two of Attia's houses of ill repute. In the evenings he could often be seen at Attia's Gavroche bar in the company of gangsters Georges Figon, Georges Boucheseiche, and Julien le Ny.
In those years Beau Serge played strange games in the underworld, gaining a footing in the Guerini clan, and eventually becoming boss Meme Guerini's confidante. A Corsican gangster later told police of a curious summit on 14 January 1965 in Antoine Guerini's house in the La Galenzana district of Marseille. Corsican leaders were contemplating the liquidation of former police superintendent Robert Blemant, who had carved his own successful niche in the underworld.
"All the criminal bosses of France were there, and some from Germany and France as well. Everyone awaited the arrival of the Guerini brothers. Suddenly the door opened and in walked a man with an 11.43 caliber in one hand. It was Beau Serge. He ordered all of us to reach for the sky while he frisked us. When he was through Antoine and Meme Guerini came in.
At the meeting David allegedly angered the Guerinis by voting against Blemant's elimination. Nonetheless three hit men shot Blemant down shortly afterward. One of the murderers, Pierre Colombani, was tortured and slain in Ajaccio, Corsica a few months later. Several Guerini clan members suspected that David had done him in.
From 1962 to 1966 David could be found everywhere. Jo Attia's band of thugs was then known primarily for their political dirty work. While Jo the Terrible was in protective confinement or exile, Boucheseiche was in charge. But the latter was usually in Morocco tending his chain of brothels, and David often worked instead for the young Lyons‑based Lesca gang, centered around Felix Lesca, Didier Barone and Louis Nesmoz. Together they pulled off one of the period's most audacious, well‑executed heists, the 1964 armed robbery of the Colombo jewelers in Milan, which netted them between $2 and $2.5 million.
During a badly needed vacation in Biarritz on the Atlantic, David took time off to relieve an armored car from the Brequet factory of $50,000. Shortly thereafter Beau Serge was a frequent guest at Leon le Juif in Paris. He also met with SAC leader Charley Lascorz. If the police had wanted to arrest him, they could have.
It is also likely that Christian David was with Attia's gang when they abducted OAS colonel Antoine Argoud from West Germany to France on orders from Jacques Foccart. Defeat in Algiers had not spelled the end of the OAS, which continued sporadic terrorist actions while in exile. Its members bombed restaurants and movie theaters in France, and made numerous daring attempts on the life of President de Gaulle. Colonel Argoud, a highly intelligent and intriguing figure, headed the organization in exile. He was the brains behind its terrorist activities and assassination attempts.
On 14 February 1963 de Gaulle's security forces uncovered a new conspiracy to murder the president. A sharpshooter was to fell the president from behind as he delivered a speech at a military academy. Infuriated, de Gaulle summoned the man responsible for security, Interior Minister Frey. The French president had had his fill of assassination attempts. Frey went to Foccart, who put his intelligence agents to work. On February 22 one of Foccart's men in Rome reported that Argoud was en route to Munich, where he would stay for the carnival.
Foccart contacted the West German intelligence czar Reinhard Gehlen, a former general under Hitler, and requested his help in bringing Argoud to France. But Gehlen would have nothing to do with the plan, making its execution all the more difficult now that German intelligence was tipped off. Foccart still had his barbouze army to turn to, and chose Jo Attia's mob for the job. Jo the Terrible, then in exile in Africa, got the green light to return.
On February 25 Argoud arrived in Munich from a Rome huddle with OAS leaders. Driving from the train station to the Eden‑Wolff hotel, he could not have known that half‑a‑dozen disguised barbouzes awaited him. Handed the key to room 434, Argoud was about to enter the elevator when he was accosted by two men in leather pants and Tyrolian hats. The receptionist later recalled assuming the men were friends of the Colonel's and off to have some fun; after all, it was carnival time and the beer was flowing.
Argoud himself suddenly felt as if both his arms were in a vise. Leaving the hotel one of the men pressed a finger against the pressure point under his ear, causing Argoud to faint. The barbouzes placed their arms around his shoulders, walked over to a Renault Frigate, and drove off. The car headed out of Munich towards the Europa Bridge between Kehl and Strassbourg, France, racing down the "third lane" reserved for allied forces in Germany. Its license plate revealed its attachment to the French army.
The next day Parisian police received a strange phone message about a blue truck parked at the entrance to Notre Dame cathedral. Inside was a package the police were sure to find interesting. The man on duty was inclined to disregard the call, but sent two patrolmen to inspect the truck. It was parked as described. When the policemen broke open the door they found a man lying bound and gagged, his face crimson from a bloody nose.
"Mon dieu!" cried one of the officers, "It's Colonel Argoud!"
The abduction became an international scandal. Diplomatic wheels rolled. The Bonn regime, supported by the United States, addressed a sharply worded note to the French demanding Argoud's return to Munich. Cynics who believed the CIA had taken part in attempts on de Gaulle's life, charged that the Americans had been in touch with Argoud.
But the Paris regime refused to release the OAS colonel. He was imprisoned, but pardoned in 1968 after de Gaulle issued a general amnesty for former OAS members ‑when forced to do so by French officers who had made it a condition for their support during the 1968 student‑led strike. After his release, Argoud announced he had recognized Jo Attia as one of his kidnappers. It wasn't the first time Jacques Foccart had treaded on the feet of foreign governments and intelligence services, and it wasn't the last time gangsters would be his tools.
1. A. Jaubert: Dossier D. Comme Drogue (Alain Moreau, 1974). 2. L A urore, 16 June 1975.
3. According to French journalist Jean Montaldo, David was also jailed temporarily in Poissy Penitentiary outside Paris. His cellmates there were the gangsters Goerges Figon, who was later murdered, probably by Beau Serge, and Francois Marcantoni, a key figure in the strange case of the murder of Stefan Markovic, the bodyguard of the Actor Alain Delon.
4. R. Barberot: A Bras le Coeur (Robert Laffont, 1972). The Black Commandos, the intelligence agency SDECE's special infiltration units in Algiers, were attached to the 11th Parachute Shock Brigade.
5. Newsday, 14 February 1973
6. The Newsweek Staff: The Heroin Trail (Souvenir Press, 1974).
7. L. Bitterlin: Histoire des Barbouzes (Editions du Palais Royal, 1972). 8. A. Tisslenkoff: J'Accuse Lemarchand (Editions Saint‑Just, 1966).
9. From the author's interview with Chairoff.
10. L. Durand: Le Caid (Denoel, 1976).
11. Others also took notice of the barbouze elite, whose terror pacification tactics were innovative: "Ed Lansdale, Desmond Fitzgerald, Colby and others took it over as part of their own method of operation. Pacification in this special sense became part of the U.S. Army Special Forces training doctrine. The Phoenix Project was the assassination (to use Lyndon Johnson's terms, 'The Murder Inc.') part of pacification." (L.F. Prouty, Ramparts, October 1973).
12. Jaubert, op. cit.
13. The Newsday Staff, op. cit.
14. Jaubert, op. cit
15. Sarazin, op. cit.
16. M. Accosta: "Smukke Serge," Kriminal Journalen, March 1978
18. David might well have been doubling as an informer. Recall that through his intelligence work and guerilla activities for SAC, David was working for the Gaullist inner circle. The latter group supported the Francisci clan in its power struggle against the Guerinis, who backed the Socialists. David often frequented the Leon le Juif bar in Paris' Seventeenth District, the known rendezvous of the assistant chief of police intelligence, Jean Caille, Pierre Lemarchand, and their underworld connections. Sarazin, op. cit.
19. The Lesca gang, also known as the "Bricole" gang, was also connected to Lemarchand and Foccart's intelligence network (D. Guerin: Les Assassins de Ben Barka, Guy Authier, 1975) and worked especially closely with the Lyons SAC chief, Jean Auge (Sarazin, op. cit.).
20. Jaubert, op. cit. 21. Sarazin, op. cit.