03:08 PM ET 08/13/97

Nazis set up secret bank in Monaco - documents say

	    By Arthur Spiegelman
	    LOS ANGELES (Reuter) - Needing a safe haven to hide assets,
the German Reichsbank set up a secret branch in Monaco during
the Second World War that was thwarted only when future monarch
Prince Rainier showed his disgust by boycotting the palace.
	    According to intelligence documents released Wednesday, the
tangled tale of Bank Charles involved some famous figures
besides Prince Rainier.
	    Among them were Free French leader Charles de Gaulle, Frank
Jay Gould, the son of one of America's most famous ``robber
baron'' financiers, and a German, Jean Wagner, believed involved
in a plot to keep the Nazi party alive after the war.
	    Bank Charles was set up in 1943 by a Swiss businessman
Eugene Johannes Charles with a secret infusion of 50 million
French francs from the Reichsbank.
	    The German central bank wanted to create a Western European
bank that could hide ``collaborationist and German assets,'' the
documents discovered by World Jewish Congress researchers in the
U.S. National Archives said.
	    One intelligence document said the bank's other purpose
was ``to serve the commercial 'expansion' of Germany'' and in
reality be a secret affiliate of the Reichsbank.''
	    Charles was aided in his efforts by a vice president of the
Reichsbank, Emil Puhl, who was a key figure in Germany's
laundering of looted Nazi gold through Swiss banks and by the
then collaborationist chief minister of Monaco, Emile Roblot.
	    The documents said the bank was able to operate for about a
year until de Gaulle sent a representative to Monaco to help
effect Roblot's ouster as chief minister to Rainier's
grandfather, Prince Louis II.
	    Rainier, who joined the Free French, forced the chief
minister's departure by leaving the palace and refusing to
return ``as long as Roblot remained in office,'' according to a
secret April 18, 1945 document prepared for ``Operation
Savehaven,'' the U.S. investigation into where the Nazis' money
went during the war.
	    Roblot, who was close to Vichy France's pro-Nazi leader
Pierre Laval, assisted the Germans in many ways during the war,
the intelligence documents said.
	    The U.S. investgaton of Bank Charles found that the wife of
American Edward Jay Gould, the only son of turn-of-the-century
financier Jay Gould, gave five million francs to become a
shareholder in the bank.
	    But the United States found that Gould, who was living in
Nice during the war, was actually behind the investment and for
a time froze his assets declaring him, his wife Florence and the
Bank Charles to be ``Special Blocked Nationals.''
	    Among those involved in the bank was a German businessman
Jean Wagner who investigators believed was a key figure in a
secret plan in which funds were sent to Switzerland to organize
support for the Nazi movement after the war.
	    As it became clear that Germany would lose, the Nazis
attempted to organize leading businessmen to provide funds to
revive the party after the war.
	    Banker Charles disappeared from public view after the war
but documents said he had deposited 10 millions francs in Swiss
	    He also claimed in interviews when captured and questioned
after the war that he was actually pro-Allied and had belonged
to a group that wanted a democratic Germany, headed by exiled
novelist Thomas Mann. The Americans dismissed his claims.