BY DAVID LEPPARD, The Sunday Times
A member of the royal family has been targeted in an alleged “sex and drugs” blackmail plot being investigated by Scotland Yard.
The royal - who cannot be named for legal reasons - called in the police after being approached by two alleged blackmailers in August.
The men demanded £50,000 not to publicise a video, which they suggested showed the royal engaged in a sex act. The case is understood to be the first time in more than 100 years that a member of the royal family has been the victim of blackmail.
During telephone calls to the royal’s office, the suspected blackmailers also claimed to have evidence suggesting that the royal had supplied an aide with an envelope containing cocaine. They claimed that they had a video tape showing the aide snorting the drug.
After the approach from the two men in August, the royal tipped off Scotland Yard. Detectives then set up an undercover operation to trap the suspects. On September 11, two men were arrested in a police sting at a London hotel. They were seized as they played what they claimed was the sex video in a suite at the Hilton hotel on Park Lane in Mayfair.
The men thought they were showing the film to a member of the royal’s staff. In fact, the man they met was an undercover detective from Scotland Yard’s kidnap and blackmail unit.
The Yard issued a statement yesterday saying: “Two men, a 30-year-old man and a 40-year-old man, appeared at City of Westminster magistrates’ court on September 13, each charged with one count of blackmail.”
Neither the royal nor any of the witnesses in the case can be identified after a judge issued a gagging order.
The alleged extortion attempt began on August 2 when a man telephoned the royal’s office. The caller identified himself only by his first name. He said he was aware that another man who worked on the royal’s staff had in his possession an envelope containing cocaine. The caller suggested the envelope was embossed with the royal’s personal insignia.
The caller then claimed he had a video tape 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 phone 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. A Whitehall security official said: “He then said he wanted £50,000 from the royal for the tape.” The source said a senior legal adviser to the royal agreed with one of the men that he would see the tape before handing over the cash.
By this time a detective had been attached to the royal’s staff. He contacted the gang posing as a member of staff and the meeting was arranged at the Hilton. Parts of the video were shown and the meeting was secretly videoed by Scotland Yard detectives in an adjacent room. The two suspects were then arrested.
The official said the video also contained unsubstantiated allegations about other members of the royal family, including the Queen.
The case is the first in modern times that a member of the royal family has been targeted in an alleged blackmail plot. In 1891 the future Edward VII 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.
Additional reporting: Anna Mikhailova