Palace denies IOC wrongdoing by Prince Albert

The Royal Palace in Monaco has denied allegations by a former

employee that Prince Albert II broke IOC rules during Russia’s

winning bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Robert Eringer, an American who claims he worked as the prince’s

intelligence adviser, alleged Tuesday that Albert accepted ”lavish

gifts and trips” from Vladimir Putin and Russia before and after

Sochi was awarded the games by the IOC three years ago.

Eringer made the accusations in a letter sent by his lawyer to

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge. Albert has

been an IOC member since 1985 and competed in five Winter Olympics

as part of Monaco’s bobsled team.

Eringer is suing Albert in a California court, claiming breach

of contract and seeking back pay. He urged the IOC to hold an

ethics investigation into the allegations, which were first

published in The Independent on Sunday newspaper in Britain.

”The Royal Palace of Monaco categorically denies the false

allegations of Mr. Eringer against His Royal Highness Prince Albert

II,” the palace said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated

Press on Wednesday.

”An IOC member for more than 25 years, the monarch has worked

tirelessly to promote sport around the world and to defend its

values.”

The IOC declined to say whether its ethics commission would look

into the case.

”We take note of the allegations – and understand that there is

an ongoing court case between Prince Albert and a former employee –

and therefore we will at present refrain from further comment,”

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.

The letter sent to Rogge by Eringer’s California lawyer, Brigham

J. Ricks, claims there is ”ample evidence demonstrating that

Prince Albert has egregiously violated the IOC code of ethics and

rules on conflicts of interest.” A copy of the letter was obtained

by the AP.

Messages left for Ricks and Albert’s American lawyer, Stanley S.

Arkin, were not returned.

Sochi defeated Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Salzburg, Austria,

in the IOC vote in Guatemala City in July 2007. The Russian bid

beat Pyeongchang 51-47 in the final round, a victory widely

credited to Putin, who traveled to Guatemala to lobby IOC members

and speak at the presentation.

Eringer claims he served as Albert’s intelligence adviser from

2002-08. He said he ran the ”Monaco Intelligence Service” with

the task of rooting out corruption in the principality, which is

located near the southern French city of Nice. He has claimed that

his work ended in March 2007, with no formal termination notice,

and that he continued his job.

Eringer’s letter claims he dealt with a ”growing invasion of

Russian organized crime and corrupt officials pouring into Monaco

and influencing its politics.” It claims he warned Albert about

alleged Russian organized crime figures trying to influence

him.

The letter says Albert went on a trip to the North Pole in April

2006 that was organized by Russia, and that, at the end of the

expedition, Putin hosted the prince at a state dinner at the

Kremlin. Following the trip, Russia provided the workers a new

three-bedroom ”dacha” built for Albert on the outskirts of

Monaco, Eringer alleges.

A month after Sochi’s victory in the IOC vote, Putin invited

Albert to Russia for a fishing trip that was widely seen as a

gesture of thanks for his support for the Olympic bid.

”Mr. Eringer stands ready to cooperate with any IOC

investigation and to provide further testimony and evidence as

requested,” the letter said.

The IOC ethics commission was set up after the Salt Lake City

bidding scandal in 1999, in which ten members resigned or were

expelled for accepting cash, scholarships, medical treatment,

gifts, travel and other inducements during the city’s winning bid

for the 2002 Winter Games.

Since then, the IOC has enforced tight rules banning member

visits to bid cities and limiting gifts to those of ”nominal

value.”

Eringer filed suit last year in California seeking $59,600 in

back pay. Arkin then filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which he

called ”redolent of a crude ‘shakedown’ or blatant

extortion.”

AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin in Paris contributed to this

report.