Swiss police are determinedly tight-lipped, yet lurid details, many unconfirmed, soon hit the Geneva press. Indeed, Stern had been found dead in a condom-like bodysuit absent any openings for the eyes, nose or mouth. He’d been shot four times; two bullets to the head.
His alarm system and security cameras were switched off.With no sign of a struggle or forced entry, he likely knew his killer. Tongues wagged, guessing it was either a pre-meditated assassination with a pos- sible Russian Mafia connection, or he was murdered by a partner in sado-masochistic activities.
Supposedly, Stern had made investments in Russia, and he’d recent- ly met with several Russian businessmen.Then again, he’d also lost a US$89 million investment in Rhodia, a French chemical company. Alleging that they misrepresented corporate finances, he was embroiled in ugly litigation with the company.
Initially, police were wondering whether the latex bodysuit could be a red herring used to cover a professional hit.Yet it seemed a convo- luted, atypical set-up.The Baroness, a famed NewYork dominatrix who designs customised latex bodywear, confirms it. She says that getting a skin-tight latex costume on someone uncooperative, let alone dead, would be very tough if not impossible.
Generally, people cover themselves in a water-based lube before don- ning such attire and, she says, “Depending on the degree of tightness and how many zips there are, you struggle or slide in.” It’s just too strange to imagine mobster types grappling with latex and lube.
The Baroness explains that bodysuits without facial openings height- en pleasure for some: “And when you’re as rich as this man, you can pretty much have whatever you want. Breathing tubes, eye, nose, mouth and ear openings are all optional design details.” By any measure, it was an inglorious death.
Edouard Stern’s and Edmond Safra’s murders are both myster- ies wrapped in conundrums. Buried less than 100 yards apart in the same Jewish cemetery, they had more in common than their wealth, Geneva residences, and initials.
Both were highly secretive men. Both feared for their lives for reasons not entirely clear. Both had enemies aplenty. Safra was paranoid and had
Above: Ted Maher’s lawyer Michael Griffith stands outside the Monaco courthouse Below: Safra’s nurse, Ted Maher on trial for his employer’s murder Opposite page: Lily Safra’s lawyer Marc Bonnant, left, speaks with Nobel laureate and Holocaust historian Elie Wiesel as they walk to the Israeli cemetery for Edmond Safra’s funeral in Veyrier, Switzerland
a large security staff. Stern, a weapons collector, had taken to carrying a gun.The Rhodia litigation seemed to have him rattled.
Stern was born into a Jewish banking family ensconced in France for generations. He left a $763 million fortune.A pampered youth with a per- sonal valet, he was a below-par student.Yet, at age 22, he joined his family’s floundering Banque Stern with a mandate to save it, and save it he did.
He was incredibly close to his three children and his former wife, Beatrice, a French art historian. They wed in 1984 and divorced in 1998. Beatrice’s father was Michel David-Weill, head of the French merchant bank Lazard Freres & Co.
Stern joined Lazard Freres in 1992 and was the heir apparent until a rift with his father-in-law. He used his handsome pay-off to start Investments Real Returns (IRR). He was an expert in off-shore tax avoidance strate- gies.When he died, he also was chairman of Delta, a British engineering company, and a director of Altadis, a Spanish tobacco company.
Lebanon-born Edmond Safra also hailed from one of the world’s wealthiest Jewish banking families. He joined the family business at 16. When he died, he was president and managing director of the Republic National Bank of NewYork.
In the previous year or two, he’d collaborated with the FBI to monitor Russian international money-laundering. Inevitably, gossip swirled about a possible Russian connection. Had Safra perhaps put a target on his back?
in France in 2003 for running Europe’s largest prostitution ring.Yet another possible Eastern European connection: MacDonald recruited girls from the Ukraine.
Yet there was more to Cecile than kink on call. ColumnistTaki speaks warmly of her, revealing her artistic ambitions and love of sculpting and painting. She also really loved Stern.They went on big-game hunting trips together and weekended in Venice and New York.
Some say Stern was dependent upon Cecile, depressed that she wouldn’t leave her husband and threatened to end their affair. Conversely, her law- yers describe her as the “battered victim of an unimaginable, psychological manipulation.”ToTaki,she’s a sexual adventuress but also a vulnerable,tragic figure, and a victim of Stern’s promises made but not delivered.
“She’s obviously not right in the head,” he says of her departure for Australia soon after the murder.“She’s always been a lost soul, very artis- tic in one way, and very tortured in another.” If she did kill Stern, he doubts it was premeditated.They might well have argued about Stern freezing her gift money during a tryst that night. If Stern’s death was a crime passionel, Cecile faces a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Her flight to Australia could indicate panic, guilt, emotional imbal- ance, or a combination thereof. Reportedly, Cecile posted a parcel con- taining the clothes she wore that fateful night back to relatives in the States. But within days, she’d returned to Switzerland.
In another curious twist, Stern and Safra’s paths intersected. Stern’s business partner, American banker Jeffrey Keil, was once president of Safra’s Republic New York Corporation. Stern and Keil helped broker the acquisition of Safra’s bank by the London-based HSBC for $9.9 billion, a deal finalised in the weeks following Safra’s death.
Yet Safra and Stern were wildly different. At 50, Stern was a karate black belt and passionate poker player with a kinky secret sex life. Safra,
After she was interrogated and put under surveillance, it didn’t take long for her to confess to killing Stern and throwing the gun into Lake Geneva.Yet not everyone was ready to accept her confession at face value. Many still suspect that others were also involved in Stern’s death.
In March,the investigating judge,Michel-Alexander Graber,described her motive as “in the shadows.” Regarding whether she could have been hired to kill, he said: “I cannot exclude the possibility of a contract
“I cannot exclude the possibility of a contract killing at this stage but this is not the line of inquiry that we are concentrating on,” says investigating judge Graber
68, had advanced Parkinson’s disease. Eight nurses provided around the clock care.While Safra was tough in business but generally well liked, Stern was roundly loathed. He was rude and abrasive with a quick temper, yet a charismatic and powerful figure to many.
International social diarist Taki Theodoracopulos does not disguise his disdain. “[Stern] was never powerful! A big bullshitter,” he says crossly. “All he did was lose big money. The idea that he was some kind of wizard is crap. He was a very unpleasant character.”
As Stern’s murder rocked Geneva, more titillating (but unveri- fied) details kept emerging. One had Stern wearing a dildo with the latex suit.
Suddenly, Cecile Brossard, 36, Stern’s attractive, blonde dominatrix/mistress of four years, confessed to shooting him. Security camera footage showed Cecile was the last and only person to visit Stern’s apartment the night he died.
If guilty, her likely motive was money. In January, Stern gave her $1 million. Yet he froze the account a few days before he died, upset when he couldn’t locate her. Cecile and her herbalist husband Xavier Gillet reportedly had financial troubles.A money squabble with Stern could have sent her over the edge emotionally.
A former waitress, Cecile had also worked as a call girl and was thought to have earned $1,300 an hour on notorious English madam Margaret MacDonald’s roster. MacDonald was imprisoned