Prince Michael of Kent, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, has been accused of misusing his royal status to seek favours from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The British royal was filmed at a meeting which was part of a joint investigation conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4's "Dispatches," which will be a part of Channel 4's special programme on Monday called "Royals For Hire." During the virtual sting, it emerged that he was willing to provide access to the Russian President for a personal profit.
The 78-year-old told the undercover reporters posing as prospective clients that he could be hired to make business representations to the Russian leadership. "I've been connected with Russia for a long time. In addition to that I've travelled extensively around Russia for many different reasons but mainly on business purposes," he says in the video.
As per the report, the royal offered his services for £50,000 for a five-day trip to Russia, and added that he would be happy to grant royal endorsement for the prospective client's company for a fee of £143,000, via a recorded speech using Kensington Palace as the backdrop.
The rest of the video shared by the media house doesn't feature the royal, but Simon Issacs, 4th Marquess of Reading, who has been his close friend and business partner for 30 years, tries to convince the clients of Michael's close relations with Russia referring to him as "Her Majesty's unofficial ambassador to Russia."
"Well, if you want to get into Russia right, you have to go through the Putinstas. And the best way of getting through the Putinstas, are through himself (Putin). I mean, I can show you an album of a picture of me with various Putinistas, about six or seven of them, and he (Prince Michael) has a lot more of these instances, where he is seen with Putin and he will be discussing a number of different subjects.," the Marquess of Reading is heard saying in the video.
The Prince of Kent later denied the charges, through a statement that was shared at the end of the video. A spokesperson for the royal insisted that he doesn't have a "special relationship with Putin" and the two men haven't been in contact with each other for 18 years.
"Lord Reading is a good friend, who made suggestions that Prince Michael would have not wanted, or been able, to fulfil," the statement further read.
The Marquess of Reading also released a statement along the same lines, noting that he was "trying to facilitate an introduction to my friend Prince Michael." He added: "I made a mistake and I overpromised and for that, I am truly regretful."
Prince Michael, a grandson of King George V and Queen Mary, is 50th in the line of succession to the British throne, while at the time of his birth he was seventh. He occasionally represents his cousin, Queen Elizabeth II, at some functions in Commonwealth realms outside the United Kingdom, but is a financially independent royal with his own consultancy business and commercial work around the world.
He was the first member of the royal family to learn Russian, of which he is a qualified interpreter. He has taken a strong interest in the country where he is a well-known figure and was also awarded the Order of Friendship, a state decoration of the Russian Federation. He is also the second cousin of Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia, who is a claimant to the headship of the Imperial Family of Russia.