I reconnect with a weary looking Montique in the bar of a hotel that overlooks the Geneve Cointrin International Airport in the Swiss Confederation. Noticing his odd limp when he walked in, I ask, “What happened to you?”. Monti orders a tall scotch and soda, hold the soda, and begins his tale.
“Born in 1947 in the tiny South African nation of Basutoland, Dimitri had dreams, big dreams. Born into money, his parents were successful rare goods traders, Dimitri was rich. He could have simply assumed ownership of the family business when his parents retired early to a villa on the coast of Spain, to live out their lives in the lap of luxury. Alas, with the country’s independence from the UK in ’66, the business climate in Basutoland began to change. Dimitri decided it was time to move on to bigger and better things. Selling the family business for about nine hundred thousand Lesotho Maloti, Dimitri was bent on multiplying his wealth. Dimitri spent a considerable amount of time and money on confidence schemes.”
“By the time he was forty, Dimitri has lost two thirds of his fortune, but had devised the ultimate money making plan; literally. Using the remainder of his money, plus whatever cash available from “investors” from his shady business dealings, Dimitri embarked on his grandest scheme to date; Drachmas. The standard currency of Hellenic Republic, before it joined the Euro monetary system, Drachmas were an easy currency to counterfeit. Dimitri had billions printed up. His plan was not to flood the world with Drachmas, that would have been foolish, but to use the phoney money to purchase real estate, yachts, businesses; become the largest corporate magnate in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately for Dimitri, his timing was a bit off. Before he could distribute his newly minted wealth, Hellenic Republic switched it’s currency to the Euro, rendering his Drachmas worthless.”
Taking a long pull from his tall soda-less Scotch, Montique continues. “For most, this would have been the end of Dimitri’s story. Instead of admitting defeat, Dimitri hatched an even bigger plan. Convincing his “investors” that the Euro was always a known risk, and he had a contingency plan all along, Dimitri was able to defer his execution.”
Montique paused while the waiters placed the steaks, baked potatoes with all the fixings, knives, sauces, and condiments at our table before continuing his story. “Utilising mining contacts from his home country, Dimitri was able to acquire a few hundred kilograms of low grade gold. Feeding the gold into the Large Hadron Collider, some scientist members of the Rosicrucianism society are making oil using an ancient alchemist formula. Instead of petroleum, though, they are producing olive oil. A by-product of the process is plutonium. Selling the plutonium on the black market produces enough cash to finance production.” Of course, I now realise, “Stacy’s John of Arc” job was just to move the plutonium out of the country.
Monti’s tale is interrupted by the waiter as he offers fresh ground pepper from a giant pepper mill. Montique accepts, I decline. “By flooding the market with olive oil, the primary national product of the Hellenic Republic, Dimitri hopes to bankrupt the already troubled nation. Once the country leaves the European Union, voluntarily or otherwise, they will return to the Drachma as their currency.” Making Dimitri a very rich man, Monti didn’t need to conclude.
Complimenting Monti on his investigation, I point out that there is one question unanswered. How did he get that limp? “First, this doesn’t leave this table, understand?”, Montique demands. I give him my assurance. “Remember, I was deep undercover, and I only did it for king and country”, Monti declares. “Armand, the owner of the cabaret in Rouen, offered me a weekend at his penthouse in Paris. He apparently took a liking to me, I am, after all, the more handsome of us two. Anyway, after too many Rob Roys and Cosmopolitans, I ended up in a ten-way Banana Ladder. As everyone knows, each participant of a Banana Ladder has to concentrate very carefully on their pole, lest any seepage occur. We were nearly at the climax of the exercise when I spotted a silver attaché case under the duvet. My concentration broken, I missed the second to the last instruction for the Banana Ladder, and the whole thing came crashing down. Attempting to leap out of the way, I slipped on the banana juice and pulled a muscle in my back”.
“Pity.” I offer, “And the silver attaché case?”. Monti hands me two Hellenic Republic Drachmas. I study them carefully, they are counterfeit, meticulous craftsmanship, but fake nonetheless. Then I realise, I can tell the difference, having handled the real currency many years ago, but the majority of the population of the Hellenic Republic is either young enough to have never used any currency than the Euro, or too old to care. A beautiful plan!