When Princess Helene of Yugoslavia met with French police earlier this month, she was "forced to admit" that her name was used by her husband for "fraudulent transactions."
Police, investigating financial records in connection with the bombing in Karachi, presented to Helene numerous documents concerning a Bahamas-registered company, Cactus, which was registered under her maiden name Helene Olga Tamara Karageorgevitch. This company was allegedly used by her estranged husband, Thierry Gaubert, to hide money from the French tax authorities.
The Cactus funds were used largely for the maintenance and installation of a ranch in Nilo, Colombia, in the Andes, one of the the upcoming tourist areas. Nilo is about two hours from Bogota.
Investigators have found a payment of 72,000 Euros from a bank account belonging to Ziad Takieddine, dated October 18, 2010.
The police are centering their investigation on Thierry Gaubert, but they say that his wife, in whose name the account was made, has benefited from the account's "largesse," made up of the sales of arms to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Threatened with being charged with "misuse of corporate assets," Princess Helene broke down in front of the investigators. They showed her details of Gaubert's visits to Switzerland to retrieve "suitcases full of cash." The princess swore to the police that she knew nothing about Cactus, and had only signed the documents through her husband while on a vacation in the Bahamas in August 2001.
The finca and swimming pool in Nilo are now for sale.
According to Paris Match, Princess Helene was the center of attention on September 22, when she attended the opening of the Mandarin Oriental, a luxury hotel on the Rue de Faubourg, in Paris. She was quickly surrounded by the chic crowd. Some want to ask her questions, others just want to watch the heroine of a state scandal involving her estranged husband, Thierry Gaubert, a long time friend and supporter of Nicolas Sarkozy.
She speaks about the nine hours she spent with investigators in Nanterre. She did always understand the questions, but was assisted by her lawyers. Helene repeated several times that she was not seeking revenge on her husband or to bring down the government. She had no choice, she said, because she feared that she would be accused of embezzlement.
Gaubert had humiliated her for some years, yet she did not seek revenge. They have been living apart for five years. He continues to live in an apartment overlooking the Bois de Boulogne in Neuilly, and he pays the rent for Helene's more modest apartment in Paris, where she lives with the couple's 14-year-old son, Léopold
In 1988, the French press described the marriage between the princess, a granddaughter of the last king of Italy, and Gaubert, an adviser to the then mayor of Neuilly, Nicolas Sarkozy. The princess played golf and was moved in Paris' social scene with her best friends, Tania de Bourbon-Parma and Hermine de Clermont-Tonnerre. Thierry's father Armand Goldenberg, a dentist, arrived in Paris penniless, after fleeing the anti-semitic persecution in Romania.
Thierry enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, he drove a Bentley, attended all the best parties, and knew all the right people. Weekends were spent at their country home in Deauville, complete with a swimming pool. They also owned a large home in Colombia.
Their way of life did not surprise Helene, who said she was raised to never discuss money. Her friends describe her as a "simple woman, sometimes fragile." She enjoyed being a hostess. One friend stated that Helene was not "Mata Hari. More like gardening and apple pie."
But she did have the composure to "trap" her husband by taping a conversation between them without his knowledge. Gaubert asked her to lie to the police. "If you talk, you will not see the children. If I sink, you sink, because we are not divorced."
Gaubert is no longer permitted to leave France. He is also forbidden to contact his wife except by text messages.
Princess Helene has "finally cut her ties" with her husband, and a certain lifestyle. The princess is not wealthy in her own right. Friends believe she will soon file for divorce.