For nearly one thousand years, the venerable religious order of the Knights of Malta endured all the traumas history could produce to survive as the most exclusive social club on earth. Its name has been a cherished symbol of chivalry in diplomatic circles around the world.
In less than one decade, its medieval mystique was to be compromised by the misuse of its name following an extraordinary infiltration of a so-called independent offshoot of the order by a curious alliance of Australian identities and the American mafia. It was an elaborate money-making charade that was ultimately exposed in a series of newspaper articles by the author in 1985 and 1986.
From American headquarters, registered in the name of the Knights of Malta at the diplomatic corp address of 866 United Nations Plaza, New York, a discredited Australian, Ivan Markovics, held court.
Markovics was able to operate for 10 years under the unlikely title of Knights of Malta ‘ambassador for special missions’. Or otherwise known as ‘special ambassador to the United States’.
During that time, in a report of a Commonwealth-New South Wales Joint Task Force on Drug Trafficking, tabled in the Federal and NSW parliaments in 1982, Markovics was officially categorised as ‘confidence trickster’.
Under the tutelage of Markovics, himself the former partner of a Sydney crime king, a multitude of dubious characters, among them associates of Australian crime bosses and key figures in the mafia in the United States, were provided with what were thought to be genuine knighthoods.
Unchallenged, Markovics of all people was able to get away with publicly claiming papal patronage.
Yet Markovics had been a partner of crime czar Richard Gabriell Reilly in Sydney’s most notorious abortion clinics in the 1960s. Earlier, Markovics had worked for perhaps Sydney’s most infamous abortionist, Dr Reginald Stuart-Jones, a much-publicised associate of gunmen and himself an illegal gambling operator and sly grog merchant. In turn, Reilly was a partner of Stuart-Jones.
When Stuart-Jones died in 1961, Markovics and Reilly went into partnership in an abortion clinic in the classy Sydney eastern suburb of Bellevue Hill. Their operating company was appropriately called Terminal Investments.
According to David Hickie’s book The Prince and the Premier: ‘A prostitute, Gina Ruszenski, told police how she visited Reilly and Markovics professionally at Markovics’s office in Elizabeth Bay Road. She said Markovics gave her drugs, especially purple hearts, in return for her services and Reilly arranged for a Double Bay pharmacist to supply her with purple hearts and later, when the strength of these became insufficient for her needs, with morphine. She detailed how Reilly arranged for her to get heroin through a Chinaman from the Fook Lee Club in Dixon Street, who frequented the Kellet Club (a gambling club under the protection of Reilly). She said this man initially gave her heroin at $60 a half ounce, but the cost quickly escalated to $150 a half ounce as her needs became more intense.’
Reilly was shotgunned to death in his Maserati sports car in the Sydney suburb of Double Bay on 25 June 1967, in a gangland war credited with having ushered in a new era of more sophisticated, syndicated organised crime linked to the American mafia.
Interviewed by police after Reilly’s death, Markovics told them of Reilly having been friendly over a long period with Leonard Arthur McPherson (who was to be nominated in a court drama a year later as ‘Mr Big’ of crime in Sydney) and Stanley John Smith, later to become revered as ‘Stan the Man’. A doorman at Reilly’s Kellet club, Francis Norman Tubby’ Black, told police of having introduced Markovics to Reilly in about 1958 when Reilly was associated with Stuart-Jones.
Those were heady days.
Ten years after Reilly’s death, a bemused Sydney noted the bestowment of a special award on Perce Galea, one of the major benefactors of the new gambling regime (which replaced the Reilly-dominated backstreet baccarat with opulent shopfront casinos). Galea ran Sydney’s best known illegal casino, the Forbes Club, at Kings Cross, and later similar establishments at Double Bay and Bondi Junction.
Galea was made a Knight of the Order of St John. In a newspaper interview, Galea proudly proclaimed that he had a letter from the Vatican advising him of the honor.
Though a crime figure, Galea had been a generous benefactor to the Catholic Church. On a memorable occasion, he had been photographed in company with the head of the church in Sydney, Cardinal Sir Norman Gilroy and Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies.
‘A nun told me the knighthood is a passport to heaven,’ Galea was quoted as saying,’but some of my associates reckon I won’t find many old friends when I get there.’
Reilly had acted as protection man for one of Galea’s early baccarat ventures, and Galea’s partner, Eric O’Farrell, had once financed Reilly in a garage business.
Reilly’s erstwhile partner Ivan Markovics thus became the principal avenue through whom numerous other identities have been similarly blessed.
Eyebrows were raised in 1978 when Sydney identity Bela Csidei claimed to have a diplomatic passport when ordered to surrender his Australian passport after being arrested for running a marijuana plantation at Wollogorang station in the Northern Territory.
A friend of Markovics, Csidei said the diplomatic passport had been issued by the Vatican, but said it was not valid. When asked where the passport was, Csidei said: ‘It is in the US in the office of the Knights of Malta.’
However invalid the extra passport might have been, American law enforcement authorities mistakedly regarded Csidei’s status as a Knight of Malta as an authentic knighthood of the British realm.
Csidei, along with Markovics, and other Australians, had come under notice of America’s FBI and other US law enforcement agencies for fraternising with American mafia figures.
In FBI files, as well as reports filed by the intelligence division of the San Francisco police, Csidei was recorded as ‘Sir Bela’.
Sentenced to jail over the marijuana plantation, Csidei served a sentence of less than a year. During his trial, evidence was given that Csidei had borrowed $10,000 from US mafia hitman, Jimmy ‘The Weasel’ Fratianno, and that Fratianno had provided him with marijuana seeds.
As for his award, Csidei told of having worked for charity, raising more than $200,000 for 19 international charities specialising in helping children.
Apart from Fratianno, Csidei dealt in the United States with the San Francisco boss of the notorious Teamsters’ Union, Rudy Tham, publicly listed as an organised crime figure by the Organised Crime Control Commission of California. Tham visited Australia in 1974 and has been linked with a string of Australian businessmen and criminals.
Through Markovics, Tham was made a ‘Knight of Malta’.
Tham was later fined $50,000 and served a prison term after being convicted on 15 counts of embezzling union funds for his own use and the entertainment of Fratianno. According to Federal prosecutors, some of the embezzled money was used to pay travel and other expenses between 1975 and 1977 to attend Frank Sinatra concerts in New York and Lake Tahoe.
Fratianno, who has since turned FBI informer and gained indemnity from prosecution for murders and other admitted crimes, gave evidence against Tham, and has also given evidence against other organised crime figures on charges ranging from fraud to murder.
Now under the aegis of the witness protection program run by the US Marshals Service, Fratianno has also talked for a best-selling book, The Last Mafioso, sub-titled The Mob’s top killer reveals the explosive family secrets, written by Ovid Demaris. Fratianno details his dealings with Markovics and Tham, especially in arranging to make Frank Sinatra a ‘Knight of Malta’ to secure his services for a mafia scam.
Markovics is acknowledged in a frontispiece to the book as a ‘key contributor’ of material for the book.
Tham, in quotes attributed to him, described Markovics to Fratianno as a ‘Hungarian who sneaked into Australia during the war. Then he got into trouble in Australia. Now he’s in Germany and a big man in the Knights of Malta’.
‘Oh, listen, this’s a very exclusive order,’ Tham is quoted as saying. ‘In fact, I just got in myself.’
Fratianno: I guess this guy can make anybody he wants?
Tham: Are you kidding, all applications have to be approved by a committee in Rome. But if he sponsors you, and you pay his expenses, he’ll go to Rome and push it through himself. Besides his expenses you’ve got to donate at least ten grand, but still you’ve got to be worthy to get in.
Fratianno: Bullshit, not if you’re in it, buddy. Sounds like a high-class scam.
According to The Last Mafioso: The more Ivan Markovics talked about the Knights of Malta, the more convinced Jimmy became that this was a high-class con he could use to his advantage.’
Fratianno engineered the induction of Sinatra into the organisation, with the ultimate idea of using him to give two benefit performances at the Westchester Theater in New York. Through scalped tickets, Fratianno calculated a skim of $US400,000.
Fratianno’s offer to have Sinatra made a ‘Knight of Malta’ was made at a memorable night in Sinatra’s dressingroom at the same theatre in 1976. With Fratianno were other mafia figures. A photograph taken of them all together that night has proved a continuing source of embarrassment for Sinatra. Sinatra was pictured in a jovial mood with Fratianno, Carlo ‘The Godfather’ Gambino, Gregory De-Palma, Richard ‘Nerves’ Fusco and Thomas Marson (who was later to have claimed also to have joined the ‘Knights of Malta’). Three other men were cut out of the photograph when it was released in 1978 by the US Attorney-General’s office. They were Gambino crime family heir Paul Castellano (Gambino died later that year), Joseph Gambino and Salvatore Spatola — a veritable Who’s Who of the New York mafia.
When Sinatra expressed interest in joining the ‘Knights of Malta’, Fratianno recalls telling him: ‘Well, Frank, the top man here in New York is a good friend of mine. This’s really a fantastic organisation. This guy’s an ambassador with the United Nations. He was telling me that kings and princes, all big important people belong to it. They knight you and you become a Sir, like Sir Francis, and you get a diplomatic passport, so when you travel nobody can fool with your luggage . . . Well, they can, but they don’t when they see this red passport.’
Markovics was invited to dine next night with Sinatra at New York’s exclusive Twenty One Club. During the dinner party, according to Fratianno, he had a falling out with Sinatra’s lawyer, Mickey Rudin, who had told Sinatra that Markovics was a ‘conman and that the Knights of Malta deal was nothing but a big scam’.
Nevertheless, Markovics went ahead with the induction. Months later at the home of Thomas Marson, Markovics, resplendent in scarlet silk robes with a white Maltese Cross, gold medals hanging from a red ribbon around his neck, presented Sinatra with a certificate of acceptance. Sinatra received a scroll with gold lettering, a red silk box with gold medals, a red flag with the white Maltese Cross, and a red passport carrying the Maltese Cross.
‘Now, Mr Sinatra, I must warn you,’ Markovics has been recorded saying in jest, ‘this is not a diplomatic passport, it will not get you through United States customs with millions in hot diamonds, but it is very much respected in European countries.’
‘Now you tell me,’ Sinatra said, according to The Last Mafioso, winking at Fratianno. This pal of yours over there told me I’d have diplomatic immunity.’
‘I think he meant diplomatic courtesy,’ Markovics is then recorded as saying, and, referring to plans for a formal investiture, added: ‘As you know, I personally went to Rome and spoke with Prince Petrucci and, according to your wishes, the Prince will be accompanied by two cardinals from the Vatican.’
Sinatra was to regret his dealings with Markovics and Fratianno. It was used against him, when allegations were made about his alleged mob connections, when he later applied for licensing as a casino entertainment agent in Las Vegas.
Records of a hearing before the Nevada Gaming Control Board in February 1981 show that Sinatra told of the meeting with Fratianno at New York’s Westchester Theatre. ‘I found out later that I was introduced to somebody named Jimmy, and I found out later it was this fink, The Weasel,’ he said.
Sinatra said that when Markovics and Marson had arranged for him to join the ‘Knights of Malta’, ‘I said it would be a great honor if I could be invested. It never did come to be a reality’.
Asked if he agreed to give benefit performances for the ‘Knights of Malta’, Sinatra replied: ‘No, they asked me and we refused.’
His lawyer, Mickey Rudin, gave testimony that he had arranged for Sinatra to donate $10,000, and promised ‘further help downstream’.
Rubin added: ‘I did get a little nervous when Mr Fratianno showed up at Harrah’s at Tahoe with Rudy Tham . . . I didn’t know anything about his background, but he was wearing a Knight of Malta button and showed he was with the Teamsters’ Union, and started to talk to me about a benefit. I brushed him off politely, and said, “There will be no benefit”.’
Circumstances surrounding the induction by Markovics and Tham of a Hilton Hotel group executive, Henri Lewin, into the ‘Knights of Malta’ played a part in the refusal of a casino licence in Atlantic City for the Hilton Hotel group, which in turn cast a cloud over Hilton’s franchise from the Queensland Government to run the new Jupiter Casino on the Gold Coast.
In February 1985, the New Jersey Gaming Control Commission refused to give a licence to the Hilton group, contending that Hilton had employed people with organised crime connections.
One mentioned was Henri Lewin, then in charge of Hilton’s two casinos in Las Vegas and previously manager of Hilton’s downtown hotel in San Francisco.
Various Australian businessmen and criminals under surveillance for associating with the mafia stayed in the downtown Hilton. Among them were Murray Riley, the ex-NSW policeman who liaised with Fratianno and other mafia identities and has since served a six-year prison term for his part in Australia’s biggest drug haul, the attempted importation by yacht from Thailand of $70 million worth of marijuana sticks.
Bela Csidei, photographed with Riley, Fratianno, Tham and other US organised crime figures, also stayed there. The FBI and other US agencies kept them under surveillance when they were meeting at the downtown Hilton; or just down the street at Sal’s Pizza Palace, at 244 Taylor Street, operated as a ‘meeting place’ and ‘message centre’ by Salvatore Amarena, a member of the Santos Trafficante mafia family that masterminded the heroin trade from South East Asia.
A factor in the refusal of a licence to Hilton by the New Jersey gaming authorities was an inch-thick file known as the ‘St Vincent Report,’ a compilation of documents amassed by Hilton executive Chester St Vincent for an internal Hilton investigation of reported goings on at the downtown Hilton involving Henri Lewin.
According to the file, an FBI agent showed Hilton executives photographs of 10 identities under investigation, and who frequented the downtown Hilton in San Francisco. Apart from Fratianno, Tham, Amarena and other organised crime figures, the photographic list included ‘Sir Bela Csidei’ — mistakenly described as ‘an Australian who owned several trucking companies’.
Lewin was stated to have arranged rooms for them, sometimes without charge or at reduced rates.
The files referred to one incident involving Markovics, who was noted as a ‘member of the Knights of Malta to which Tham belongs and which organisation Tham had Henri (Lewin) join for a fee of $US3000 or $US4000’.
Travelling with Markovics was his daughter, Eve, an Australian beauty queen, whose dress was damaged by the hotel valet service. Markovics had complained that it was an original design from St Laurent which his daughter had worn only twice, once for the Miss World Pageant. He had said he valued the dress at $US1700 and wanted to be reimbursed for the full amount.
A Hilton insurance administrator had then taken the dress to a boutique for evaluation, only to find the same dress (‘exact to the last detail and size’) featured in a sale display, original retail value $US650 but marked down to $US197.
Markovics had ‘flatly refused to even discuss a replacement and wanted to be reimbursed for the full value of the gown’.
Tham then intervened, arriving at the hotel in a frenzy, using extremely foul language, and demanding reimbursement for Markovics, ‘or else things would go further’. Finally, a cheque for $US800 was paid to Markovics, who signed a release.
In the face of the casino licence refusal by New Jersey authorities, Hilton terminated the services of a consultant, Chicago attorney Sid Korshack, alleged to have mob ties. According to New Jersey officials, two other employees resigned or were sacked. But not Lewin. The head of Hilton, Baron Hilton, happened to be a genuine Knight of Malta.
Another friend of Markovics, Ronald Lopez Dias, who has flaunted his ‘Knight of Malta’ status more than most, used to display on the wall behind his desk at a Sydney office his ‘Knight of Malta’ scroll alongside a pictorial montage certifying his appointment as Australian representative for The Sands casino in Las Vegas.
As recorded in a report by Mr Ian Temby, QC, Federal Director of Prosecutions, Dias was one of various identities subjected to telephone tapping by NSW police. A set of police transcripts of telephone taps on his office at Kings Cross in Sydney during June, July and August 1979 form part of the so-called Age Tapes handed over to Federal and NSW authorities after publication of extracts in The Age in February 1984.
They represented the key documents which prompted the Victorian Government to join the Federal and NSW Governments in granting indemnity to Victorian as well as NSW police to give evidence on the illegal tapping operation to a special Royal Commission on the polices tapes conducted by Mr Justice Donald Stewart. Victorian police collaborated with NSW police in monitoring the activities of Dias.
After arriving in Australia in 1977, Dias set up a nightclub in Kings Cross known as ‘Le Club’. Its opening night attracted a veritable Who’s Who of the Australian underworld. In 1978, Dias also set up a retail marketplace called Shoppingworld for Gordon Barton of Tjuringa Securities, the mainstay of Federal Hotels which controlled Tasmania’s Wrest Point casino in Hobart.
A man with a flair for publicity, Dias has claimed to have risen from poverty in a ghetto in London’s East End to become a millionaire at age 19. Among other things, he has been described as an inventor of discotheques, a manufacturer of false teeth, a promoter of Whimpey Bars, nightclub owner, property dealer and secret serviceman for the Israelis.
In the United States before moving to Australia, according to documented background supplied by US law enforcement agencies to Australia police, he was manager of a nightclub in Los Angeles trading as Whisky-Au-Go-Go. The establishment was listed as being owned by Johnny Marshall Caifano, described by the Californian crime commission as an ‘enforcer for Chicago organised crime’.
Dias became a business partner of Frederick Charles ‘Paddles’ Anderson, the long-time titular head of organised crime in Sydney who died in January 1985. His funeral was attended by recognised crime leaders. Dias and Anderson ran a racehorse together called Bellini.
One associate, George Freeman, ran a race tipping service from an office used by Dias for a business selling telephone equipment. On a police information sheet filed with US authorities in March 1984, Dias himself was described as ‘bookmaker’.
At the same time, he was listed in the 1984 edition of Business Who’s Who of Australia as managing director of Trafalger Financial Corporation of Australia. Set up to obtain investment monies from the public in Australia for subsequent re-investment overseas in England or America, Trafalger was incorporated in Victoria and had offices in Sydney and the Gold Coast. It went into liquidation in January 1983, with deficiencies in investors’ funds of approximately $750,000.
In May 1982, when Dias began promoting his telephone sales business, he made the most of his ‘Knight of Malta’ status, calling himself Sir Ronald. Some sections of the media actually quoted him as a true knight of the realm. In interviews published in the The Sun in Sydney and The Australian, and in an interview on Sydney’s Channel 7, Dias was quoted matter-of-factly as Sir Ronald Dias.
Other sections of the press pointed out afterwards that his knighthood did not come via Buckingham Palace and the British Embassy had no knowledge of him. Columnist Dorian Wild observed in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph: ‘Not only is there no reason for others to call him “Sir”, it is also technically wrong for him to use the title at all.’
America being a republic, officials are not always versed in the real nature of knighthoods. On arrival in New York in July 1985, Dias booked into the United Plaza Hotel as Sir Ronald Dias — and the New York Police Department, which happened to be interested in whom he met, duly recorded him in their reports as Sir Ronald.
In Sydney once, in an interview before lunching with Ivan Markovics, Dias publicly explained: ‘The knights of Malta is a religious order. Frank Sinatra and a few other good guys have got them and so have some bad guys.’
Australian police were surprised when an international operator, Peter Beverly Myers, mentioned during the NSW Woodward Royal Commission, was touted as a ‘Knight of Malta’.
Myers, born in Western Australia and the target of an alleged underworld murder plot in Melbourne in 1969, has been a long-standing business associate of Karl Frederick Bonnette, a former Victorian known in Sydney as ‘The Godfather’.
Bonnette told the Woodward commission of once having flown to Los Angeles, then to Bogota, Colombia, to collect $US28,000 from a safety deposit box for Myers, for a collection fee of $14,000. The money was said to have been for the sale of a franchise.
Another international character mentioned during the Woodward commission, Robert Chew, also got caught up with Markovics and his ‘Knights of Malta’. Chew came under notice after he visited Australia in January 1977 and, in his capacity as president of Citadel Petroleum Corporation of California, signed power of attorney for Murray Riley to proceed in negotiating a loan of up to $US50 million, ostensibly to finance the acquisition of oil leases.
In the 1982 report of the Commonwealth-New South Wales Joint Task Force on Drug Trafficking, Chew is listed as: ‘US citizen and associate of organised crime figures in that country.’
Arrangements for a ‘Knights of Malta’ investiture for Chew, and possibly five others at the same time, was recorded in FBI wire taps of a phone used by Fratianno in San Francisco, six months after Chew had flown back to the United States with Bela Csidei.
It was 11.27 am on 18 July 1977. Fratianno was tapped talking to Rudy Tham.
Fratianno: Ivan (Markovics) called me. They got the whole thing set up for September. He’s been trying to get ahold of you and you were out of town. I’ve got it all set up. They talked to the monsignor. They talked to the archbishop and the other guy under him. Everything’s all set, they’re going to do it in September. Now, Ivan’s going to come out here. So I called Bob Chew and told him, ‘Bob, they’re going to have it in September if you come up with the fucking money. If you don’t come up with your fucking money, you’re not going in it.’
Fratianno: You know what I mean? So now you’ve got to see Ivan. He don’t know how in the fuck you guys want to do it. I talked to one of the main guys, from a foreign country and he happened to be in New York.
Tham: He’s the guy who makes the speeches, the con-man. He’s the guy that handles the sword.
Fratianno: Oh, yeah. Well, anyhow, he says he can bring a few dignitaries in like a big rabbi. You know, somebody that don’t belong to the order.
Tham: We don’t want a rabbi!
Fratianno: Well, wait a minute. Dress it up! A big, ah, rabbi, a big Protestant, you know. He knows how to dress it up.
Tham: I know this guy’s a conman.
Fratianno: Yeah, well, this is it. They don’t know how far you want to go. So if there’s five or six you can get (Prince) Petrucci and the cardinal to come here. All you’ve got to do is pay the nut. Now, here’s what they guy said, the archbishop. He says, ‘God forbid if I happen to be someplace’. His understudy will take it. One of them will be here. The thing now, this fucking Chew, I told him, I says, ‘Don’t send no cheques over there’. Rudy, you get the cheques in your hand yourself.
When talking to Sinatra, Markovics said it looked quite promising that Prince Bernhard, husband of Queen Juliana of Holland, and other top ‘Knights of Malta’ would attend his investiture. But it never happened. Months later, Prince Bernhard resigned as Inspector General of Dutch armed forces and other official posts after a government inquiry reported to the Dutch parliament that Prince Bernhard stood to get a $1 million bribe from the sale of Lockheed aircraft to the Dutch Government.
A recording on one of the phone numbers used for ‘Knight of Malta’ businesses in New York advised callers of its status as ‘Reigning Sovereign, Military and Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta — Official Seat to the Hague, Kingdom of the Netherlands’.
At the time of the royal scandal, the Dutch Prime Minister, Mr Joop Den Uyl, said Prince Bernhard had ‘showed himself open to dishonorable offers and favors’.
Prince Bernard was not well in favor in the United States, anyway, having had runaway US financier Robert Vesco as an honored guest at Holland’s Soestdijk Palace. Vesco had been hiding out in the tiny Caribbean country of Costa Rica, wanted by US authorities after $US200 million went missing from the ill-fated mutual fund giant, Investor’s Overseas Services. And it so happens that Costa Rica has also had an intriguing connection with people associated with the ‘Knights of Malta’.
According to a joint investigation by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and the Government of Thailand, an organisation run by a Costa Rican-born Chinese set up a phony Costa Rican diplomatic office in Thailand. In a confidential report prepared by American authorities, titled ‘Knights of Malta’, it was stated that the organisation also established ‘phony Costa Rican diplomatic offices in Malaysia in 1981-82 and in Hawaii in 1981-83, and had represented themselves as Costa Rican diplomats in order to facilitate illegal activities’. Costa Rica was found to have no diplomatic offices or accredited diplomatic representatives, honorary or otherwise, in any of the countries.
The same report said the Costa Rican ringleader, referred to by associates as The Ambassador’, had represented himself both as a high-ranking diplomat as well as a CIA agent. According to the report, ‘he is simply a confidence man who has been involved in a number of illegal activities including, but not limited to, narcotics trafficking, fraudulent letters of credit, banking negotiable instruments, fake passports and firearms’.
In November 1982, he and an American associate had represented themselves as CIA agents and successfully concluded a fraudulent arms sale with a Burmese insurgent group getting away with $US157,000 without delivering any arms to the group.
A team attached to the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence in Victoria, led by Detectives Graham Barnett and John McCaskill, subsequently unearthed evidence of plans by the same organisation to set up similar phony Costa Rican consulates in Australia, as well as Hong Kong, Japan and Italy.
An overseas figure investigated by the Costigan commission, millionairess Suzi Lockyer, made great play of her association with the ‘Knights of Malta’. She used the title ‘Lady’.
Now living in the United States, she is the estranged wife of Donald Brookes Lockyer, who made millions of dollars out of bottom-of-the-harbor tax schemes.
Suzi herself amassed extensive property interests in Australia and overseas, jewellery said to be worth several million dollars, three Rolls Royces and a Bentley. One witness said: ‘She said she was titled . . . Yes, a lady’. Another who had a falling out with her in Los Angeles claimed to have gone into hiding after being told an LA associate of hers was mob-connected.
She adopted the title ‘Lady’ after her stepfather, Melbourne financier Norman Granville Lewis, joined the ‘Knights of Malta’. Suzi at one time was involved with Yves Andre Courbet and sometimes adopted his name. He, too, joined the ‘Knights of Malta’.
In Melbourne, Lewis became accepted as ‘Sir Norman’ in some circles. The number plate of his car sported the prefix DC and, with a Maltese Cross emblem added, it gave the appearance of a diplomatic corp vehicle.
When he received his ‘knighthood’, Lewis received a letter of congratulations from the ‘unofficial’ Costa Rican consulate in Thailand. A communication dated 8 May 1983, under a letterhead with an emblem and titled Republica de Costa Rica, Central America, Consulate General, and addressed to Sir Norman Lewis, advised: The Consulate General of Costa Rica Central America in Bangkok, Thailand, presents hereby its compliment to you on this auspicious occasion on your Knighthood and hereby extends our sincere best wishes.’
A business associate of Lewis, Miroslav Sulc, a key figure in the ‘Knights of Malta’, who was to eventually help expose the Markovics operation, used to hand out his own card carrying the Maltese Cross emblem and designating Sulc as ‘Sir Miroslav Sulc Kt. Gr. Cr. O. S. J.’. In chivalry terms, it denoted a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
The card described Sulc as ‘ambassador-at-large’. It lists the New York address used by Ivan Markovics, as well as a phone number in Bangkok. For gem dealings, Sulc also maintained office numbers in Milan in Italy, and San Francisco in the United States.
Much travelled, Sulc carried not only his ‘Knight of Malta’ passport but an ‘Air Crew IAOPA’ card signifying: ‘Security Identification: Attention Airport Attendants, Police and Security Guards. The person whose name appears on this card is a licensed pilot. Please allow free passage through checkpoints and access to own aircraft.’ The card states that Sulc is a fully qualified member of an organisation belonging to the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations.
Sulc also carried a certificate of appointment as ‘Special Agent — Far East Affairs’ for the Crime Prevention Bureau of Florida. It requested ‘all law enforcement officers to cooperate in accordance with the laws, rules and ordinances of your state and city’. Under the heading Powers, the certificate stated: ‘The aforementioned employee . . . may detain, arrest or use powers granted under state law to protect life and property’.
Impressively, the certificate, in the form of a police identification card, ended with the notation that it has been ‘Issued under authority of Department of State’.
In fact, the Crime Prevention Bureau of Florida was a name used by an organisation registered as Crime Prevention Bureau Executive Protection Services. Examination by the official Florida Department of Law Enforcement determined that this organisation was a private business name, akin to a private inquiry agent licence in Australia.
As ambassador-at-large, Sulc was responsible to Markovics in America.
In New York, Markovics was seldom at his United Nations Plaza address. People working in neighboring offices noticed that the door was almost always shut and a woman came in to collect mail. Amid the largely diplomatic corp occupants of the prestigious building, Markovics’s office had two listings on an illuminated bench display in the foyer in front of the security guard: Chancellery of Sovereign Hospitaller Knights of Malta, and a more commercial, Knights of Malta, Inc.
Describing Markovics as a nice fellow, an executive of Mendik Realty, the agents for the building, with an office across from Markovics, recalled few visitors to the ‘Knights of Malta’ office — except for an unexplained visit from Interpol.
from Connections 2 by Bob Bottom