It occurred to me to pretend that my father had left funds and shares in Britain and that all the relevant documents were in a deposit box in a Portuguese bank.
This story got me my exit visa in no time at all, with the additional help of a Basque-Cuban friend of mine, Zulueta, who held some honorary post with the Bank of Spain’s currency police. Furnished with a passport and an exit visa for Portugal, I decided to leave Spain and to settle down in a country which offered better prospects for peace and security.
Once in Lisbon I stayed at the Hotel Suiço-Atlàntico in Rua da Glória, which was near both the Spanish consulate and the Spanish embassy. I registered myself at the consulate as a Spanish resident abroad.
I had thought that, once in Portugal, it would be easy for me to get a visa for Britain which I would be able to show to Federico when we met, but when I went to the Spanish consulate to get one, they turned me down.
But I can be stubborn. I went to the Spanish embassy and asked to see the ambassador, Nicolás Franco, whose brother Francisco Franco was dictator of Spain. He assured me that he would try to solve my problem.
But days went by and I heard nothing, which was very worrying for it was becoming increasingly urgent that I return to Madrid to renew my contact with my German friend Federico.
Just as I was getting desperate, I met someone who influenced me to take an entirely different course of action.
A fake diplomatic visa
The owner of the hotel where I was staying was a Galician who introduced me to another Galician staying in the hotel, who showed me with great pride what he claimed was his special diplomatic visa. This was a sheet of paper headed Ministry of Foreign Affairs and embossed with the arms of Spain, underneath which was a typewritten text asking that every assistance be extended to Señor Jaime Souza who wished to travel to Argentina; below the text was the ministry’s rubber stamp and an indecipherable signature.
I resolved to become better acquainted with the owner of such a magnificent document and spent many evenings cultivating his friendship, visiting local amusement parks, night-clubs and cabarets with him.
I decided to ask Jaime to visit the Casino of Estoril with me. My invitation was not entirely without an ulterior motive: I wanted to take a photograph of Jaime’s diplomatic visa because if I could make a copy of such document, I could show it to Federico as a proof that I was serious about my projected trip to England.
We not only shared the same room at the Monte-Estoril Hotel but we each put 10,000 escudos into a common purse to gamble with and agreed to split our gains and losses evenly between us. One afternoon, while we were gambling at the casino, I began to complain of abdominal cramp and told Jaime that I’d have to go back to the hotel. I suggested he continue to play as we seemed to be on a winning streak.
Once back at the hotel, I quickly photographed his diplomatic visa and then returned to the casino.
Back in Lisbon, I had two enlargements made of the photograph I’d taken. I then cut the Spanish coat of arms of one of the enlargements, took it to a firm of engravers and asked them to make me a plate.
Armed with this plate and the other enlargement, I went to an old printing works, Bertrand Irmàos, posing as someone from the Spanish chancery staff, gave them the plate and the enlargement and ordered 200 copies and went elsewhere to order an identical rubber stamp to the one visible in the enlargement.
Although I still hadn’t a very clear idea of exactly how I was going to make use of my newly printed visa forms, I did not think I’d need very many, so I got rid of all but ten or twelve. I was just trying to decide how I would smuggle in Spain the wad of visa forms with their official-looking seals when I received a summons to the Spanish consulate.
I was very surprised when one of the consular officials greeted me with: “What influential people have you been stirring up, Señor Pujol?”. As he said this, he handed me a telegram from Madrid, which instructed them to grant me visas for Europe, excluding Russia, and the whole of America, except for Mexico.