Pinay Circle

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"Formed in the Fifties... One of the most influential, secretive, and, it goes without saying, exclusive political clubs in the West... One member contacted by this newspaper said he could not talk about it 'even off, off the record'. Another simply put the phone down... The source of its funding is a mystery..."[1]

One of the earliest discussions of the Circle was in Lobster magazine in 1986:

The Pinay Circle was set up in 1969 around the former Prime Minister of France, Antoine Pinay. Pinay was very old and seems to have been little more than a figurehead. Its chief fundraiser and leading light is the former lawyer, Jean Violet. A senior figure in the French equivalent of the CBI, Violet has also been a member of SDECE, the French equivalent of the CIA and MI6. (Faligot, 1985 p 194). According to reports from West German intelligence (in Intelligence/Parapolitics (Paris) December 1984) Violet had links with South African, American, British, Swiss and West German intelligence. The West German BND is said to be one of his sources of finance.
With these contacts Violet had put together an informal group of conservative, anti-communist politicians, bankers, journalists etc - 'The Pinay Circle'. It is said to meet twice a year discussing how to promote the conservative cause. The following are said to have been, or still are, members of the circle:
Julian Amery MP, Brian Crozier, Nicholas Elliot (B) (ex MI6), William Colby (ex DCIA), Edwin Feulner of The Heritage Foundation, and General D. Stilwell (DIA).
Pinay projects are said to have included the promotion of Mrs Thatcher in the UK and Strauss in West Germany.
ISC records from as early as 1972 mention efforts by the Pinay Circle to generate moral and financial support for ISC: Crozier was apparently hoping for £20,000 from the Circle in 1973 - a large contribution by ISC's standards. The Circle paid for an ISC study "European Security and the Soviet Problem". Further correspondence from 1975 shows the Circle active in organising meetings in "Madrid, Rome, Milan, Brussels and Bonn .... with the object of raising money for the Institute (ie ISC) and enhancing its reputation." (Time Out 27 June 1975)[2]

In 2004 the Sunday Times reported:

Nadhmi Auchi is a member of an elite club known as Le Cercle. It consists of transatlantic businessmen and politicians and is often compared with the Bilderberg Group. The secretive group of 100 people meets twice a year to discuss global politics and business. The next meeting is scheduled to be held in Washington this month.
The club, which has close links to the intelligence services, was founded in the 1950s by former French prime minister Antoine Pinay and former German chancellor Konrad Adenauer. Guests at the club's meetings have included Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, the Sultan of Oman, Romania's Ion Illiescu and King Hussein of Jordan. The current chairman is Lord Lamont, the former Tory chancellor, and other members are thought to include Anthony Cavendish and Geoffrey Tantum, who are both former MI6 officers.[3]

UK members

In this country, Cercle regulars number about 15, drawn mostly from the rich Tory right. Leading political lights are Paul Channon and Alan Duncan. David Burnside, the former British Airways public affairs chief, is a member - not for his BA work but for his passionate espousal of Ulster Unionism. Viscount Cranborne, John Major's former senior aide, has attended Cercle gatherings.
Brian Crozier, the author and well-known Cold-Warrior with close ties to MI6 and the CIA, is a senior member. Anthony Cavendish, the former senior MI5 man, is an old Cercle hand. Nicholas Elliot, the ex-MI6 officer, used to go to their meetings.[4]

External resources


  1. Chris Blackhurst Aitken dropped by the Right's secret club; Is it the ultimate dishonour? Chris Blackhurst on Le Cercle, an exclusive think-tank said to be funded by the CIA The Independent (London), June 29, 1997, Sunday Page 3
  2. Robin Ramsay, Wilson, MI5 and the Rise of Thatcher Covert Operations in British Politics 1974-1978, Appendix 2: the Pinay Circle, Lobster Magazine April 1986, Issue 11
  3. Robert Winnett Billionaire: I'm no friend of Saddam (Subtitle: Le Cercle of the Elite) Sunday Times (London) September 5, 2004, Sunday Business; Business; 9
  4. Chris Blackhurst Aitken dropped by the Right's secret club; Is it the ultimate dishonour? Chris Blackhurst on Le Cercle, an exclusive think-tank said to be funded by the CIA The Independent (London), June 29, 1997, Sunday Page 3