This article by the French reporter René Backmann appeared originally under the title "OLÊ, OLÁ, O MUSSOLINI TÁ BOTANDO PRÁ QUEBRAR" in the Portuguese magazine EX-, No 8, December 1974, and has been translated by FOIA Research. A copy of the magazine is available on Scribd under https://www.scribd.com/document/166613605/Jornal-EX-n8-Dezembro-1974.
Espionage. Conspiracies. Attacks. Coups d'état. In spite of its recent defeat in Portugal and Greece, one cannot yet speak of fascism as a phenomenon of the past. It's out there, protected and organized. In Lisbon, the discovery of the archives of a Portuguese "information" agency, directed by French agents who fled after the fall of Marcelo Caetano, reveal the ramifications of a true international conspiracy, which wants to see an order in a Europe finally free of democracy, this "infection of the spirit". Based on these archives, the French reporter René Backmann began to decipher a charade that has lasted for 20 years: what is the color of Mussolini's black shirt today?
There are no more secrets in the south wing of the fort in Caxias. There, 20 kilometers from Lisbon, a small room on the first floor holds a mess of files, mimeographed forms, binders, newspaper clippings, old photographs, clip boxes, stamps, staplers. These are the archives of a small news agency, placed next to the documents of the former Portuguese political police, under the custody of the Dismantling Commission of the PIDE-DGS (the Portuguese security service under Salazar, later renamed DGS under Marcelo Caetano). But why is so much importance given to the papers of a bland news agency?
In the early evening of May 22, less than a month after the coup d'état that destroyed 48 years of Salazarism, a command of marines, led by Lieutenant Moniz Matos, investigates an apartment in the Lapa quarter of Lisbon. It is the building No. 13 on Rua das Pracas, a modern property whose four rooms are deserted. The two first are furnished as offices, in the third there is a photographic laboratory, in the fourth the well-sorted archives, divided into countries. This apartment serves as the headquarters of the Aginter-Press agency. The manager, Jean Vallentin, a French national, is absent. As for the owner Yves Guérin-Sérac, another Frenchman, he left shortly before, without anyone knowing where to.
The investigations start soon after revelations made by many of the PIDE agents arrested in Caxias. "We worked", they stated, "in close connection with Aginter Press which, under the cover of a news agency, was working on certain matters as a subsidiary of the DGS."
Lieutenant Moniz Matos transfers what was found in the four rooms to a military truck and returns to Caxias. A part of the shipment - everything in the offices and in the laboratory - is locked in the small room on the first floor of the fort. Another part - the boxes and files with the newspaper clippings - is piled up in a large room at the foot of the central staircase, for lack of space.
A few days later, the commander Abrantes Serra, the new head of the fort, entrusts Lieutenant Costa Correia with the task of making an inventory of the material seized and, above all, examining it thoroughly. Lieutenant Correia's first reports are surprising: in fact, Aginter not only hid an international political information office, but also served as a cover for a very important network of former right-wingers, the Ordem e Tradição (Order and Tradition) movement, which defines itself as "an organisation of action and combat at all times and in all countries."
Ordem e Tradição
Established in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and West Germany, Ordem e Tradição regularly published an information bulletin sent to all its followers. I browsed through some of these bulletins in Caxias. They are largely made up of extremist propaganda, political texts about the Cold War, seasoned with souvenirs of the OAS (Organisation armée secrète), with strong smells of national-socialism and, altogether, sprinkled with references to Francoism, Salazarism and the fallen regime of the Greek colonels.
I was able to consult the members' binder and the membership forms of certain Aginter Press leaders, and could thus collect some names. In the slip of all of them was written "former OAS" (a French radical group in favour of colonialism which militantly opposed Algeria's struggle for independence). On the file of Robert Leroy, one could read: "ex-member of Waffen-SS".
Ordem e Tradição, which had its statutes written in French, Portuguese and English, had very intimate relations with the Ordre Nouveau (later Faire Front), with the Italian Ordine Nuovo (later Ordine Nero) and with another Italian far-right extremist group, Avanguardia Nazionale of Stefano delle Chiaie. Title of the newsletter of the Ordem e Tradição: "veritas ubique". And the motto: "Better to light a little candle than curse the darkness." The bulletins were printed in Dieppe, France, by a publisher called Ruffel, located at n° 58 Rue de la Barre. By coincidence, the French headquarters of Aginter Press were also in Dieppe, n° 53 of rue de la Republique, at the house of Joseph Vannier.
I am also shown how the photographic laboratory was used to make fake documents. There are machines for the printing of identity cards, driver's licenses, French passports, and also an incredible collection of Spanish, French, and Portuguese stamps, suitable for the use on false documents. Amongst the stamps those of the prefectures of Haute-Garonne and Oran, the Paris Police Department passport service, the Annecy Bar Association, the Alicante customs office, the accreditation office for French journalists and many signatures of French diplomats and senior officers. Aginter Press had correspondents in Bonn, Buenos Aires, Geneva, Saigon, Rome, Tel Aviv, Washington, Stockholm and Taipei.
A former correspondent in France explains Aginter's methods of recruitment and operation: "After a contact with Dieppe's headquarters and its director, Joseph Vannier, the main task of all news agency writers was to provide information, especially information on "progressive" activities. After a probationary period of a few months, if the candidate liked it, Aginter did a screening to assure their anti-communist convictions. When the result was positive, the correspondent received a press card registered in Lisbon, with his photo. He thus turned, officially, into an Aginter employee who could be very well paid, if he were productive. After a few months, and another more rigorous screening Aginter then proposed that the person could become an information agent. The person then would receive a false press card, false documents, and all other papers that might be needed. His work would be that of a classic spy. More often, he would be purely and simply an auxiliary of PIDE, with missions in Africa, recruiting mercenaries, and often turning out to be a mercenary himself. In France, in addition to his espionage work on the left and the extreme right, Aginter correspondents were in charge of spying on Portuguese emigrants (about one million), in particular opponents of Marcelo Caetano and the leaders of the Portuguese left who lived in the country. All this in close collaboration with the agents of PIDE which had infiltrated Portuguese emigration."
An official recounts that in Angola and Mozambique "Aginter men engaged in espionage or provocation missions, some were infiltrating liberation movements, others Portuguese troops." Africa was one of Aginter's main field of activity. In the dossiers at Caxias, Lieutenant Correia found substantial and abundant documentation in that regard, carefully kept up-to-date.
Robert Leroy told an Italian journalist that he had carried out "propaganda missions" in South America and Africa, and that he became deeper involved in Tanzania, Rhodesia, Malawi and Mozambique, where he mainly infiltrated the liberation movements. According to him, "the infiltration process was very successful."
But in Portugal the Aginter men were active too. Documents uncovered at the agency's headquarters show that on the eve of April 25, two "punctual operations" were under preparation: a kidnapping, which was to take place in a cafe in Lisbon, and a murder in Villafranca de Xira, 30 kilometers from the capital.
The brain behind these two operations was Yves Guérin-Sérac, alias Ives Herlou, alias Ralph Keriou, alias Yves Guillou. 1 meter and 78 tall, blond, athletic, aged 48, Yves Guérin-Sérac, former captain of the French army, belonged to the OAS and therefore was sentenced by the State Security Court. First he took refuge in Spain, like many other "lost officers," then went to Portugal, where he founded Aginter Press in 1966 with one of his friends, Pierre-Jean Surgeon. He left Lisbon shortly before the coup.
Yves was considered by three Italian magistrates to be the organizer of the bombing that killed 16 people and wounded 100 at the Agricultural Bank in Milan on December 12, 1969. But he is not alone. And it's not just a few bloodthirsty nostalgics of the Duce that extend their actions to Spain, Portugal, Germany, France and Greece; they are important politicians, a large part of the secret services, officials, police, double, triple or quadruple agents, specialists in psychological operations who would love a regime in Greek or Chilean fashion.
In the last five years, the Nazi-fascists - as they call themselves - have caused more than 50 deaths and many hundreds of injuries: 16 dead and 100 wounded in Milan; 8 dead and 95 wounded on May 28 in Brescia; 12 dead and 48 wounded in the Rome-Munich express train, burned by a magnesium bomb on the night of August 4. After a period of panic, threads were discovered linking all these attacks, thanks to the Italian press and jurisdiction.
The first intervention dates back to 1967, when the colonels came to power in Athens. Among the first official visitors to the new Prime Minister Pattakos was Pino Rauti, founder of the Ordine Nuovo movement, a journalist of the extreme right-wing Roman "Il Tempo". Considered a "hardliner" among the neo-fascists of the Italian Social Movement itself, Rauti violently criticized party leaders who wanted to run for legislative elections: "Democracy is an infection of the spirit," he said. In Athens, Pino Rauti also met Colonel Agamemnon of the KYP (Greek secret service).
In the months that followed, a Greek Embassy official began to extend invitations and hundreds of Italian fascists came to Greece on tourist visits that always ended at a training camp in the north of the country. On November 15, 1969, Ordine Nuovo officially joined the Italian Social Movement, and Pino Rauti became a member of the party's central committee.
Ten years ago, a parliamentary commission had revealed the curious working methods of the SID (at the time called SIFAR). Accused of spying and conspiring for his own ends, the SID chief, General Di Lorenzo, was replaced by Admiral Eugenio Henke, yet soon afterwards was elected deputy of the Italian Social Movement. The deputies requested that the SID reports and dossiers be destroyed, but they were locked in the archives, with information on all the politicians, extreme right-wing activists, trade unionists, journalists, magistrates, senior officials, cardinals, bishops and Italian industrialists.
In June of the same year an important document had been sent to the ambassador of Greece in Rome. It is the copy of a report from a KYP agent in Italy, addressed to the head of the Greek government, revealing close relations between the Greek secret services and the Italian superior officers. The report speaks in clear words, of an "action" to be carried out: "The only point of contention is regarding the scheduling of precise dates of action. This is because, according to the Italians, they are still on a low organizational level." The conclusion of the agent: "Increase the number of citizens who externally demand an improvement of relations with Greece and, internally, long for order and peace."
As they say, the best way to increase the need for order and tranquility is to simply disturb it. "The stronger the disturbance, the stronger the need." In August 1969, three months after the arrival of that document in Rome, 10 attacks destroyed railway infrastructure in northern and central Italy. In December occurred the bomb attack at the Piazza Fontana in Milan. On the same day, three other bombs exploded in Milan and Rome.
Outraged, the press turns against the far left and demands from the government to be more rigorous.
SUICIDATIONS (Neologism between suicides and assassinations)
Two days later, Pietro Valpreda, beatnik and anarchist, is arrested for the bombing of Piazza Fontana. He was denounced by a taxi driver who died shortly after, a victim of "fulminating pneumonia". From then on, a strange curse accompanies the people who could have proven Valpreda being innocent: a witness kills himself with gas, after having been beaten; another one fires on his own body more than half of an automatic pistol charge; others suffer terrible traffic accidents. With his proven innocence, Valpreda is as free today as the real culprits.
About all these matters, a man, now imprisoned in Italy, knows a lot. His name is Guido Giannettini, 43, a former MSI expert on military issues. Having worked for the SID (Information and Defense Service) alongside two thousand agents recruited from the far right to the far left, spying here, manipulating there. Among these agents are 200 officers of three different coats (agencies?) and carabinieri.
Giannettini fits neatly into these entanglements. For 12 years, he traveled all the paths of European neo-fascism, starting in 1961, when he was identified at a mass in Spain alongside representatives of the Falange and future leaders of the OAS. After intense activity in many countries, Giannettini is again found taking part in a conspiratory discovered at the end of last year, around a group called Rosa dei Venti (Wind Rose). It was he who convinced retired industrialist Andréa Mario Piaggio, one of the ten richest industrialists in Europe, to deliver 180 million lire to the conspirators of the Wind Rose.
The return of Salo
With the support of the Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale, an Action Committee for National Awakening and a group calling itself "Avengers of Italy" (Justiceiros da Itália) are preparing to seize power. Their program: the one of the Republic of Salo (the same one Mussolini tried to establiish when the country was occupied by the allies). For its execution, they had four commandos of 250 men, plus the support of sectors of the army and the carabinieri.
The conspiracy was discovered. Among the many senior officers indicted are lieutenant colonel Amos Spiazzi and Brigadier-General Ricci, commander of the the military region of Salerno. Also in this case the SID was very well informed. The case reaches such dimensions that in July its director, General Micelli, who had succeeded Admiral Henke, was replaced by General Mario Casardi and the files of political persons are burned. The industrialist Mario Piaggio was arrested on August 23, 1974, charged with "participation in subversive association" and "political conspiracy".
In the meantime another conspiracy was discovered and neutralized. Its backer is a 49-year-old adventurer, Carlo Fumagalli. Profession: destroyer of cars. In 1943 he had created in Valtellina a group of "autonomous and apolitical" partisans, the Chat-Huants de Valteline, after a campaign in the social service regiment of the Fifth American Army that earned him the Bronze Star. It is said that under the facade of his partisan group was an organization that facilitated the resettlement of Italian Jews to Switzerland; and it is also said that Fumagalli stripped the Jews of all their possessions and handed them over to the Germans.
In 1962, Fumagalli created the Movimento di Azione Rivoluzionaria (Movement for Revolutionary Action, MAR), which intends to establish a presidential republic in Italy. To this end, he makes use of explosives several times. The explosions in the valleys of Valtellina and the arms trade with Switzerland are the works of Fumagalli. In 1970, his goal was to attack barracks and blame responsibility for the attacks on the extreme left, to convince the army to take the battle to the streets. He speaks of his plans to officers, and also filled in a journalist from Corriere de la Sera and SID agent, Giorgio Zicari.
On March 8, his audience has already grown: Fumagalli exposes his project to representatives of 10 organizations during a meeting in Milan. A month later, the first of a series of 100 attacks takes place. Wanted, Fumagalli goes into hiding for a year, after which he will be acquitted by the Luca court. Last March, Fumagalli attended, as a guest, the creation of Ordine Nero in Cattolica, south of Rimini. Attending are, besides the leaders of the new organization, Mario Peccoriello, Ricardo Occasio, Clemente Graziani, former conjurer of the Rosa dei Venti group. The purpose of Ordine Nero is to succeed Ordine Nuovo, dissolved on November 23, 1973. "To terrorize the antifascists with bombs, to create a situation of violence, according to the methods of the great and unforgettable OAS", remain its principles. The congregation is at the same time a summit conference, because Fumagalli plans a coup d'état, which is approved for May 10, 1974.
But on May 9, at two in the morning, he is arrested. A veritable arsenal is found in one of his friends' cars. In the next few hours, Fumagalli's friends were to assassinate politicians, blasters were to blow up dykes, railroads, as well as roads, and commanders were to stop a PCI meeting with machine-gun bursts.
The last conspiracy discovered made less noise. Only at the beginning of October did it become known that some 40 people, including several well-known Italian personalities, are being accused of having prepared a coup d'état which was to take place on 2 June. Among the well-known personalities is Edgardo Sogno, national advisor to the Liberal Party, who, going underground, said: "It is indispensable to react against communist action that tends to make Italy a popular democracy, with the aim of establishing in the State essentially the balance of a Western democracy."
Admiral of General de Gaulle, Edgardo Sogno intends a presidential republic. An Italian journalist says that "of all the plotlines discovered, this is the most realistic."
Sogno is not an adventurer, nor a nostalgic for retro-style politics. Italian military attache to NATO in the 1950s, he was Italian consul in France, then ambassador to Romania. The CIA seems to have high hopes for the diplomat, for many American agents attended the meeting on September 27, 1970 in a villa near Varese. In addition to Edgardo Sogno, a high magistrate, a banker and several politicians participated, most of them linked to anticommunist resistance organizations.
If this evidence was not enough to demonstrate the inner workings of a "black plot", prosecutor D'Ambrosio, in charge of investigating the attack of the Agricultural Bank in Milan, uncovered more interesting links. In April 1971, for example, two of those responsible for the attack were arrested: attorney Franco Freda and bookseller Giovanni Ventura. And two other men return to the scene, charged: Pino Rauti and Guido Giannettini.
Rauti, the friend of the Greek colonels, avails himself of his provisional freedom to stand for election as a deputy. Elected under the banner of the MSI he claims the privilege of parliamentary immunity. Unnecessarily, because after the Brescia bombing the immunity of all MSI deputies was suspended.
Giannettini would still go through one last adventure. When, on May 5, the magistrates knocked on his door, he had been missing for a month. He fled to Paris, where he stayed at the Claridge Hotel. The search warrant issued by Interpol did not have to upset him: "I was helped with the protection of French secret services," he later told the Italian magazine L'Europeo. But, abandoned by his superiors who find him uncomfortable, Giannettini is soon deserted by his French friends as well, and on June 24 he leaves Paris for Spain and the United States.
He is found a little later in Buenos Aires, where, after a month's stay, he renders himself to the Italian consular authorities: until today it is not known why. Subsequently questioned, he tries to make excuses referring to his role as an information agent. "I participated in the arrangements only to inform my superiors." According to revelations by a former Spanish secret agent to the Italian press, a document from the General Directorate of Security in Madrid indicates that Giannettini made three trips to Alicante, Spain, in July and October of 1973. During those trips, he would have been in touch with Hartmut von Schubert, director of a strange propaganda and recruiting agency called Paladin. In charge of recruiting and deploying on his own account - or for prudent secret services - spies, assassins and mercenaries. Paladin, which until then had been headquartered in Paris, transferred its activities to Alicante. According to some Portuguese soldiers, Paladin could have been the "armed arm" of Aginter-Press in certain operations.
But there are even more dazzling leads. A magistrate, the judge Sica, opened an investigation against Paladin on suspicion of complicity with the perpetrators of an assassination attempt at Fiumicini airport. According to documents that the judge has, the attack of December 17, 1973 - which caused 32 deaths and was attributed to a Palestinian organization - would have been prepared in Alicante, at Paladin's headquarters.
Founded in 1970 by Gerhard Hartmut von Schubert (who was deputy to Johannes von Leers, former head of the advertising department in Goebbels' ministry), Paladin produces unambiguous texts for classified ads, such as this one published in the "International Herald Tribune" June 23, 1971: "The Paladin group needs a pilot, a ship commander, a navigator, three explosives experts, two camouflage experts, two Vietnamese experts, two Chinese-language experts." Candidates are advised that their missions can be dangerous and that they can take them beyond "iron or bamboo curtains". Proposals must be addressed to Alicante or to another Zurich address.
More surprisingly, Italian judges have discovered strange connections between men or organizations of the extreme right and representatives of certain Arab countries. So much so that the Al Fatah and PLO representative in Rome, Nail Zwaiter, who was murdered by the Israeli secret service on October 16, 1972, assiduously attended the leaders of the far-right Lotta di Popolo, which changed its name later into Organisazione Lotta di Popolo.
This organization had close links with Jeune Europe, directed by Claudio Orsi, nephew of General Balbo and personal friend of Franco Freda, amongst the bombers of the Piazza Fontana. Alas, it was Freda himself who organized the first Italian Fatah congress in Padua in 1969. When Freda was arrested, many organizations of Arab students published a pamphlet in Rome demanding their release and proclaiming: "Viva Freda, valiant fighter of the Palestinian revolution".
Moreover: The Italy-Lybia Assosciation is presided over by Claudio Mutti, 28, a Romanian teacher, translator of Coreliu Zelea Codreanu, head of the Romanian fascists in the period between the two wars. Today, Claudio Mutti is in prison for subversive fascist activities. Among those responsible for the Association is also Aldo Gaiba, 35, a friend of Orsi and former activists of the committees formed to push for Freda's release. It is said that agents of the Libyan government have attended the first congress of the European extreme right in September 1972, in Munich, in which France was represented by the Ordre Nouveau.
Certainly all these scattered elements do not constitute hard evidence, and the Italian judges are still striving to identify all false leads in this flood of information. This does not prevent some of them from being convinced that the financing of the Italian right-wing is not only guaranteed by the Western countries, but also from an Arab country whose anti-Semitism echoes the one of the Italian neo-Nazis.
Yesterday, Italy was surrounded by dictatorships. Today, Caetano fell, the Greek colonels were banned and everything can happen in a Spain after Franco. In crisis-ridden Italy the Communist Party is on the verge of power, saying that it is willing to work side by side with the ranks of Christian Democrats. "It is our only chance to avoid fascism," some people say, "if the PC comes to power, the country will see Chile three months from now on," others think. But what seems beyond doubt: in Italy, the difficulties encountered by judges in the course of their work, the complicit passivity of the secret services, a part of the police and most of the army in the face of the "Nazi-fascist" agitation and the presence of the CIA show that, nostalgia aside, it is still directed by the black orchestra.