An undercover investigation has claimed prince Michael Franklin of Kent was willing to use his royal status for personal profit, and to seek favours from Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The queen’s cousin told undercover reporters posing as investors from South Korea in a virtual meeting that he could be hired for £10,000 a day to make “confidential” representations to Putin’s regime.
The revelation was made by Channel 4 Dispatches in collaboration with the Sunday Times, who 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.
Franklin responded showing interest in working with the company, telling undercover reporters that he would give House of Haedong his royal endorsement in a recorded speech for a $200,000 fee and was happy to use his home in Kensington Palace as a backdrop.
Franklin does not receive money from the civil list and earns a living acting as chairman of his own private company, which offers consultancy advice.
He was also approached about a role helping the fictitious gold firm in Russia.
A Royal scandal
The programme said his business partner lord Simon Reading had used an event at Kensington Palace in 2013, in which Franklin was a guest, to sell access to Putin. The event, to promote the Russian wrestling sport of Sambo, also offered opportunities to personally meet the Russian leader at a later date, Dispatches found.
In a recorded meeting with the undercover reporters, Reading said:
If he [Franklin] 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.
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.
He went on to describe Franklin as (emphasis added) “Her Majesty’s unofficial ambassador to Russia”, and that tension between the UK and the Russian regime has not affected his relationship with Putin.
“No public funding”
Responding to the programme’s allegations, Franklin’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.
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.
Dispatches: Royals for Hire, will broadcast at 7.30pm on 10 May on Channel 4.
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