Helene Pastor, who died of gunshot wounds, was, as an heiress of the principality’s greatest real estate fortune, Monaco’s richest woman.
Known locally as “la vice-princesse”, Pastor was the senior surviving member of what is, in effect, Monaco’s second dynasty after the ruling Grimaldis. The Pastors, however, came from the humblest of origins. Pastor’s grandfather, Jean-Baptiste, was a stonemason from Liguria who arrived in the small seaside town of Monte Carlo as a young man in the 1880s. Having made good in a modest way as a public-works contractor, he was commissioned in 1936 by Prince Louis II to build the principality’s first football stadium - the beginning of a fruitful association between the two families.
After World War II, Jean-Baptiste’s son, Gildo, amassed waterfront land cheaply and in the 1950s he began building the stylish apartment blocks with harbour views which formed the modern cityscape of Monte Carlo - and became bolt-holes for the world’s rich in search of ultra-low taxes combined with the Riviera lifestyle. Conservative in their business methods and averse to debt, the Pastors were eventually reckoned to own outright more than 3000 apartments, or 15 per cent of Monaco’s entire housing stock, loosely valued at 20 billion Euros.
On Gildo’s death in 1990, the empire was divided between his three children, Victor, Michel and Helene - contrary to Ligurian tradition, in which daughters were not allowed to inherit. While the low-profile Victor, the more flamboyant Michel (a noted art collector dubbed “le boss de Monaco”) and their offspring continued to develop new properties and acquire interests in many other aspects of the local economy, Helene quietly managed her portfolio of half a dozen prestigious addresses along the avenues Princesse-Grace and Grande-Bretagne.
Tailored by Chanel, she was known for her elegant but reticent style and taciturn manner: she avoided grand social events but could occasionally be spotted walking her dog without a bodyguard and spent much of her time in an office decorated with photographs of her father, assessing the suitability of prospective tenants and reinvesting her substantial cash flows.
On May 6 a man armed with a sawn-off shotgun shot both her and her long-serving chauffeur, Mohamed Darwich, who has also since died of his wounds. Speculation in Monaco as to the motive for the attack have inevitably focused on the possible involvement of mafia or Russian gangsters. There have also been stories of a recent blackmail attempt against the family. Organised crime and money-laundering are a high cause for concern in the principality, but never previously associated with the Pastors.
A wealthy Italian family, the Marzoccos, have been competitors in local real estate dealings since the 1980s, but any tensions were thought to have been resolved by the marriage in 2012 of a Marzocco daughter to Michel Pastor’s son Jean-Baptiste. Helene is reported to have told police before her death on May 21 that she knew of no one with a grudge against her. Monaco’s ruler Prince Albert has expressed his “deep support” for the family.
Helene Pastor was born in 1937. Her brothers predeceased her, Victor in 2002 and Michel in February this year. She was twice married and divorced, and is survived by a daughter of the first marriage and a son of the second (to Professor Claude Pallanca, a prominent Monegasque dentist who was also the honorary consul of Russia and who declined to comment on her death, saying: “Je ne veux pas avoir de problemes.”) Their son Gildo - a denizen of local gossip columns with a passion for fast cars, to whom his mother had not yet passed a full inheritance - was struck down by a heart attack earlier this year. Pastor was leaving the hospital in Nice where she had been visiting him when she was attacked, and he too has refused to speak to the press.
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