Ian Payne 4am - 7am
Queen's cousin accused of using royal status to 'sell access' to Putin
9 May 2021, 10:59 | Updated: 9 May 2021, 11:57
Prince Michael of Kent has been accused of being willing to use his royal status for personal profit and to seek favours from Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The Queen's cousin was the subject of a covert investigation by Channel 4 and the Sunday Times in which he told undercover reporters he could be hired for £10,000 a day to make "confidential" representations to Mr Putin's regime.
Reporters posing as investors from South Korea spoke to Prince Michael in a virtual meeting.
They had set up a fake South Korean gold company called House of Haedong and approached five members of the royal family with an offer of a role.
Prince Michael responded showing interest in working with the fictitious firm, telling the covert reporters he would give the company his royal endorsement in a recorded speech for a $200,000 fee.
He also said he would be willing to use his home in Kensington Palace as a backdrop for the video.
The Queen's cousin does not receive money from the civil list - a list of people to whom money is paid by the government - and earns a living acting as chairman of his own private company, which offers consultancy advice.
Michael was also approached about a role in assisting the phoney gold company in Russia.
The investigation said the prince's business partner Lord Simon Reading had used an event at Kensington Palace in 2013, in which Prince Michael was a guest, to sell access to Mr Putin.
Channel 4's Dispatches found the occasion - which promoted the Russian wrestling sport of Sambo - also offered opportunities to personally meet the Russian leader at a later date.
In a recorded meeting with the undercover reporters, Lord Reading said: "If he (Prince Michael) is representing the House of Haedong, he could mention that to Putin and Putin would find the right person who is interested in South Korea or interested in gold.
"It just opens the door, you know, which is so helpful."
He added: "I think, if I can say this, this is kind of slightly discreet, we're talking relatively discreetly here.
"Because we wouldn't want the world to know that he is seeing Putin purely for business reasons, if you follow me."
Lord Reading went on to describe Prince Michael as "Her Majesty's unofficial ambassador to Russia", and that tension between the UK and the Russian regime has not affected his relationship with Mr Putin.
Responding to the programme, Prince Michael's office said: "Prince Michael receives no public funding and earns his own living through a consultancy company that he has run for over 40 years.
"Prince Michael has no special relationship with President Putin. They last met in June 2003 and Prince Michael has had no contact with him or his office since then.
"Lord Reading is a good friend who, in trying to help, made suggestions which Prince Michael would not have wanted, or been able, to fulfil."
Lord Reading said: "I thought the approach from the House of Haedong was genuine and I was only trying to facilitate an introduction to my friend Prince Michael.
"I made a mistake and over-promised and for that, I am truly regretful. I wasn't at my peak as I was recovering from a kidney transplant.
"For the record, the Sambo event, which was eight years ago, was my event and Prince Michael was simply my guest along with many other people."
Channel 4's Dispatches: Royals for Hire, will be broadcast at 7:30pm on Monday.