Jon Swain - writer and foreign correspondent

Euro-MP is a communist agent

French National Front parliamentarian repor tedly paid by Romanian intelligence services


The Sunday Times, 29 December 1985

The Sunday Times has established that a French member of the European parliament in Strasbourg is an agent of the Romanian secret intelligence service. It has also established that he bribed the head of a French political party with a large sum of money to obtain his parliamentary seat.

The agent is Gustave Pordea, a Romanian-born naturalised Frenchman, who has been a member of the European parliament since June 1984. The politician who accepted the money is Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of France's far right party, the National Front. Le Pen, a virulent anti-communist, did not know that the money he was receiving came from Romanian intelligence.

Pordea, 69, has already successfully sued a French newspaper for reporting suspicions that he was working for the Romanian regime. When The Sunday Times confronted him with the details of its own investigation he refused to respond, except to say: 'Very funny. I have nothing to say. I am not going to confirm or deny anything.'

The Romanian intelligence service, the DIE (Departmentul de Informatii Externe), attaches considerable importance to its operations aimed at gaining Western goodwill and political support. According to Lieutenant-General Ion Mihai Pacepa, who was the deputy director of the service until he defected in 1978 and a personal aide to the Romanian president, Nicolae Ceausescu, the DIE has attempted to subvert Western parliaments before.

Romania has special links with the European Community. It is the only Eastern-bloc country to have officially recognised the EEC. Since the beginning of this year it has been lobbying intensively for an extended co-operation agreement with the community.

The DIE is one of the most elaborate intelligence services in the Eastern bloc. The Sunday Times has established that it was so eager to establish a pro-Romanian influence in the European parliament in 1984 that it told Pordea that dollars 500,000 was available to buy his way into it.

Shortly before the European elections in June 1984, Pordea, a former Romanian diplomat with a broad and impressive range of connections in France and elsewhere, approached Le Pen through an intermediary and offered to pay him this sum in return for a place high enough on the European list to guarantee his election. Le Pen accepted and arranged for the money to be paid into a Swiss bank.

A Swiss banker then made two furtive trips to Paris to hand over half the money to Le Pen's wife.

Last week, The Sunday Times went to see a senior French official with the facts of our investigation on Pordea. He says that Pordea's activities are already the subject of a highly-secret file of the French government which contains solid information supplied to the French security services by a high-ranking Romanian defector who was in Paris in January, as well as evidence against Pordea relayed by other confidential sources.

The sequence of events that The Sunday Times has pieced together began on February 20, 1983, when an application by Pordea to become a naturalised Frenchman was granted by the French authorities. Though naturalised, Pordea was barred from standing for elected office for 10 years, but on December 8, 1983, the French national assembly decided that naturalised Frenchmen should in future enjoy the same rights as ordinary Frenchmen from the date of their naturalisation.

Five days later, on December 13, Pordea flew from Paris to Vienna and checked into room 378 at the Bristol, a five-star hotel. His passage through Paris airport for the flight to Vienna was witnessed, as was his arrival at Schwechat airport.

The arrival on the same day at Schwechat of a middle-aged Romanian with dark swept-back hair who had flown in from Romania was also witnessed. His name is Costel Mitran, a Romanian diplomat based in Bucharest.

Mitran's foreign ministry post in Bucharest is a cover. He has been identified by western security agencies as a senior figure in the DIE. In his past two overseas diplomatic postings he earned a reputation as a skilful operator. In Bucharest, he is responsible for dealing with 'illegals', Romanian agents planted in foreign countries to operate undercover; and according to a senior French prefect who has had access to the Pordea file, Pordea was one of the agents Mitran controlled.

Mitran and Pordea met at the Vienna Bristol on December 13 and 14. Mitran told Pordea that the Romanian intelligence service had drawn up a plan under which he was to infiltrate the European parliament. He asked Pordea to assess the chances of getting himself on a European list of a French political party.

Pordea said that the only way would be to buy himself a place. According to the prefect, the two meetings ended with Mitran telling Pordea that Romanian intelligence had fixed a budget of dollars 500,000 for the operation.

Mitran's departure from Vienna on December 14 and Pordea's return to Paris on the same day were also witnessed.

Once back in Paris, Pordea tried, and failed, to get himself on the European list of the Union pour la Democratie Francaise and Rassemblement pour la Republique parties. This single opposition list for the European election was led by Mme Simone Veil.

'He offered a lot of money but the leaders of the coalition would not bite,' said a senior French official. 'They did not know who Pordea really was.'

According to this official, Pordea contacted the centre-right coalition through an intermediary who belonged, like Pordea, to a political organisation calling itself the Fondation pour l'Europe.

The foundation's director, Gerard Pince, told The Sunday Times that he had nothing to do with any financial transaction. He said that he had known Pordea personally at the time of the Euro-election: the former Romanian diplomat had been an honorary committee member of his organisation. 'He is a complex individual,' he said, 'a man who is difficult to get to know.

'I encouraged Pordea and other members of the foundation to try to get on a European list but I was thinking in terms of the list of Mme Simone Veil. I was astonished when I saw his name on the National Front list of Jean-Marie Le Pen. Pordea had no previous connection with the National Front to my knowledge and the fact that he persuaded Le Pen to take him on and put him at number four is strange indeed.'

Pince said that the controversy that erupted over the nomination, followed by French press reports that Pordea was a Romanian agent, had persuaded him to dismiss Pordea from the foundation in the summer.

'I knew nothing that could justify the suspicion but I found Pordea's behaviour troubling to say the least. He changed his political affiliations incredibly fast. One moment he wanted to be on the list of Mme Veil, the next there he was on the National Front list. I invited him to explain himself to the committee but he refused. It is a great relief that he have got rid of him.'

Pordea first tried to contact Jean-Marie Le Pen through the Unification Church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon in Paris - although he appears to be a devout Catholic. He is a 'Knight of Magistral Grace' of the 12th-century Roman Catholic charitable Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta.

'He sat at the back eating sandwiches,' said a member of the Moonie congregation. 'He made much of the fact that he lived on very little money and was a widower who had brought up six children. He made himself a figure almost to be pitied.'

At the meetings of the Moonies, Pordea pressed any member with a National Front connection to give him an introduction to Le Pen. Moon's church, with its strong right-wing views, was sympathetic to the Front and at one time contemplated making a financial donation. But those members who were in contact with Le Pen were suspicious of Pordea's motives and refused to arrange an introduction.

The key step in Pordea's campaign to get on the National Front list came as Le Pen was already preoccupied with the European election. Le Pen was faced, above all, with the need to raise money to pay for what promised to be a costly campaign for his small but rapidly expanding party. If the Front failed to score 5% it would have to pay the entire election bill of approximately pounds 800,000 itself.

One Saturday evening in April, about two months before polling day, Le Pen and his wife Pierrette attended a cocktail party at the flat of Jacques de Ricaumont's, a pillar of the Left Bank aristocracy. As they left de Ricaumont's flat at 266 Boulevard Saint-Germain, they were pressured by their host into attending a private mass the next day at St Clotilde church.

'Jean-Marie was not too enthusiastic,' said Mme Le Pen. 'But he was persuaded. It was the period of the European election and he was after votes and money for the campaign. It seemed a good opportunity.'Sunday evening mass at St Clotilde is an important social event. The congregation is small - attendance is by invitation only - but it consists almost exclusively of titled people. Two people are the driving force behind the mass, de Ricaumont and the Comtesse Madeleine de Solliers Holtzer, who is another pillar of Left Bank society and a friend of Pordea, she says, since 1948.

After the mass the Le Pens were invited for whisky and cakes to the Comtesse de Solliers' flat at 56 rue de Varenne, opposite the Hotel Matignon, the French prime minister's office. Pordea was present and was introduced by the Comtesse de Solliers to Le Pen, which de Ricaumont confirms.

A week later, Mme Le Pen was telephoned by the Comtesse de Solliers and urged to come immediately to her flat. 'I have something very important to tell you,' she said.

At the flat the comtesse came straight to the point. She told Mme Le Pen that her husband had met a 'very interesting man' at the drinks party, a Romanian named Pordea. She said: 'Pordea has friends who would very much like to see him on the National Front's list. They are prepared to pay 4m francs (about dollars 500,000) for him to be fifth or sixth. It must be decided very quickly.'

When Mme Le Pen relayed this proposition to her husband he said at once: 'Pordea will be fourth.'

The Sunday Times has asked the Comtesse de Solliers, a frail old lady with pronounced right-wing views, to explain her role. She said: 'This is a private affair which I am not prepared to discuss. Whoever gave you your information is not very honourable.'

Le Pen's abrupt and unexpected decision to nominate Pordea fourth sent the National Front leadership through the roof, in the words of one official, and Le Pen was asked for an explanation.

According to Jean Marcilly, Le Pen's official biographer and political strategist at the time, Le Pen would not give his reasons. 'One day, Jean-Marie Chevallier, Le Pen's chef de cabinet (political secretary), came to see me,' Marcilly said. 'He came straight to the point and asked me if I knew there was a new number four on the National Front list, a Romanian called Pordea who was a complete stranger to the party and who had been imposed on it by Le Pen.

'I bounded into Jean-Marie's office and asked him what he was doing. 'Listen,' he said, 'Porde is something that doesn't concern you. It is a commitment I have made.''

The reason was purely financial. Within days of Le Pen's acceptance of Pordea's offer, 4m francs were deposited in an account at the Banque Darier in Geneva.

Last month Jacques Darier, the head of the bank, was arrested on a trip to Paris, charged with breaking France's currency laws and jailed. The magistrate fixed bail at a record pounds 1.3m. It took Darier just a few phone call to raise the money and to secure his release. He flew back to Switzerland on the first available plane, forfeiting the bail.

The Sunday Times has established that the financial trail concerning the Pordea money involved Pierre Darier, son of the bank's head. It has also established that twice in May, early in the month and on May 21, the young Darier made trips from Geneva to Paris to hand over the Pordea money. Each time Le Pen sent his wife to collect it.

Mme Le Pen said: 'One Saturday evening Jean-Marie said the hand over of some of the Pordea money would happen the next day. I asked him how to do it. He gave me an address. I was very frightened.'

She said that on her husband's instructions she went early on Sunday to the address he had given her. It was a sixth floor flat at 36 Avenue Theophile Gautier, in the sixteenth district of Paris. There she found Pierre Darier waiting for her. He gave her a bag containing 1m francs. 'I was so frightened I didn't even bother to count it,' she said. 'I took the money straight home and gave it to Jean-Marie.'

A few days later Le Pen asked his wife to collect a further instalment of 1m francs from Pierre Darier at the same address on May 21. This time, worried about what her husband was asking her to do, she told a male companion what had happened. He then insisted on accompanying her to the 3.30pm rendezvous with the Swiss banker. The companion waited in a car parked in the street while she collected the money. He said: 'When she came back we sat in the car and counted the money. It was exactly 1m francs.' Madame Le Pen says she drove back to her home at Saint-Cloud and handed over the 1m francs to Le Pen.

There is no record of the Pordea money in the Front's accounts, even though it was spent on the election campaign. Such a donation is impossible to trace because the law in France (unlike Britain) does not require political parties to declare the source of their income.

Marcilly said: 'In my experience there was never any serious bookkeeping at the Front. Moreover, with the election only a few weeks away there was a strong need for ready cash to pay the printers, the stickers of election posters and the like.'

On May 23, two days after the payment of the second Pordea instalment, the National Front registered its list at the Ministry of the Interior. The number four candidate was identified as, 'G A Pordea, Doctor in Law, former diplomat, President delegate of the Foundation of Europe, Honorary Consul of Poland in Exile (London).'

This position guaranteed Pordea a parliamentary seat if the Front won at least 5% of the votes. Afterwards, Pordea invited Le Pen to a thank-you luncheon at his club, the exclusive Cercle Interallie in the Rue du Faubourg St Honore, next door to the British embassy.

The European election held on June 17, 1984, was a triumph for Le Pen's party. The Front, campaigning on a dual theme of immigration and law and order, exceeded its wildest expectations and won 11% of the vote, giving it, under France's proportional election system, 10 deputies in the Strasburg parliament. Pordea was one of them.

The first allegations about Pordea's links to the Romanian regime appeared on the eve of the polling day in Le Matin, a Paris newspaper. But the article, entitled 'The strange No 4 on Le Pen's list', made no mention of the bribe.

Le Pen claimed the Le Matin story was part of a smear campaign aimed at discrediting the Front. He told reporters that he adopted Pordea as a 'spokesman for the people of Eastern Europe' and to prove that the Front, which has often been accused of xenophobia, considers any Frenchman of foreign origin to be completely French. As for Pordea he started proceedings for libel against Le Matin two days before expiry of the three-month legal limitation.

New allegations that Pordea was a Romanian agent were made by Le Matin on the same day the libel case was heard in February. In a page-one story it quoted a letter from Pacepa, the top-ranking Romanian defector, as saying he had personally reactivated Pordea as a Romanian agent of influence in the early 1970s.

Pacepa did not give evidence at the trial and Pordea's lawyer poured scorn on what he called a witness without a face. The court disregarded Pacepa's letter as inadmissible and awarded Pordea 10,000 francs damages. Le Matin lost its appeal.

Pordea next successfully sued Le Matin for defamation over the Pacepa story. At the December 5 trial he denounced the Pacepa letter as a 'fabrication' and said he suspected the former Romanian spy-chief had never even been in Paris in January as Le Matin claimed. The court fined the writer of the story, Agathe Logeart, 10,000 francs and ordered Le Matin to pay 30,000 francs costs.

However, The Sunday Times has obtained solid evidence that Pacepa was indeed in Paris in January and was interviewed by Le Matin. We have been in communication with him in the United States and received a categoric assurance that the letter to Le Matin, fingering Pordea as a Romanian agent, is both genuine and from him. Pordea's assertion that Pacepa never came to Paris is untrue.

'Pacepa came to Paris specifically to testify at the Pordea trial,' said a French official. It would have been spectacular. But at the last minute he backed off only for security reasons. However, he agreed to write the letter to Agathe Logeart of Le Matin explaining who Pordea was.'

The official went on: 'I was able to meet Pacepa myself on a number of occasions in Paris. I dined with him. We discussed a number of matters including the Pordea affair. I can assure you that Pacepa was absolutely positive that Pordea was a Romanian agent and that he had personally reactivated him in the early 1970s after he had been a 'sleeper' by signing the Pordea agent file. He said there was no doubt about it.'

(c) Times Newspapers Ltd. 1985