| STING operation
London, Oct. 28: Two men have been charged with attempting to use blackmail to extract £50,000 from a member of the royal family by claiming to possess a “sex-and-drugs” video.
The men had contacted the royal’s office, saying they had a video of that person passing an envelope, bearing the royal insignia and apparently containing cocaine, to an aide. The aide was filmed snorting the cocaine, the men said.
The duo, who threatened to publicise the footage if the money was not paid, also claimed there was video evidence of the royal engaged in oral sex with the aide.
Scotland Yard today said the two men are in custody.
Neither the royal nor the aide nor any of the witnesses can be named under a strict banning order issued by a judge. Initial legal proceedings have all been heard in secret.
Ten years after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, a blackmail scandal has the potential to bring the royal family back into focus for all the wrong reasons.
The level of embarrassment will depend on which royal was being targeted and whether the alleged sex was homosexual or heterosexual. While the public may be prepared to laugh off youthful indiscretions, it may be more unforgiving if senior royals are drawn into the affair.
Buckingham Palace would not comment, saying the case was a police matter, but a statement from Scotland Yard said: “A 30-year-old man and a 40-year-old man appeared at the City of Westminster magistrates court on September 13 charged with one count of blackmail. They have both been remanded in custody to reappear at the central criminal court on December 20.”
According to today’s Sunday Times, the alleged extortion attempt began on August 2 when a man telephoned the royal’s office. The caller iden-tified himself only by his first name. He said he was aware that another man who worked on the royal’s staff had an envelope containing cocaine. The caller suggested the enve-lope was embossed with the royal’s personal insignia.
The caller then claimed he had a videotape that showed the royal aide giving someone oral sex. He indicated that the person was the royal. The caller asked for the royal to call him and left a mobile number.
During subsequent calls, one of the men claimed that the tapes showed a royal aide snorting cocaine. But the caller guaranteed that nobody would ever see them because they were safe in his flat.
“He then said he wanted £50,000 from the royal for the tape,” a Whitehall security official told the paper.
A senior legal adviser to the royal agreed that he would see the tape before handing over the cash. An undercover detective from Scotland Yard’s kidnap and blackmail unit contacted the gang posing as a member of the royal’s staff and a meeting was arranged on September 11 at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane.
Parts of the video were shown and the meeting was secretly filmed by Scotland Yard detectives in an adjacent room. The two suspects were then arrested. The security official said the video also contained unsubstantiated allegations about other members of the royal family, including the Queen, the Sunday Times added.
The men were brought before the City of Westminster magistrates on September 13 and remanded to appear at the Old Bailey on December 20 — though the full trial may not take place until much later.
The case is understood to be the first time in 100 years in which a member of the royal family has been the victim of blackmail.
In 1891, the future Edward VII had discussed with his solicitor paying off two prostitutes he had visited in return for letters he had written to them. Details emerged only in 2002 when the letters were sold for £8,220 at Bonhams, the auctioneers.
The price tag was a punitive sum for the 26-year-old prince — equivalent to around £12,000 today.